As most of you know, I am a lover of words. And since words are only as good as their meanings, I am always delighted to study the meanings behind even everyday words that seem so obvious.
We all know what it means to be kind, don’t we? Many of us akin it to being nice and pleasant. But really, kindness is so much more. Most of us are nice (pleasant and agreeable) when people are nice to us. And at times, we can even be nice when someone cuts in front of us at the grocery store or steals “our” parking spot. We can smile and nod, and choose to not glare at them or tell them off, reminding ourselves that we don’t know what kind of day (or life) they’ve had.
But kindness goes so much deeper. Webster defines kindness in his original 1828 dictionary (which btw is worth it’s weight in gold) like this:
Kindness: good will; benevolence; that temper or disposition which delights in contributing to the happiness of others, which is exercised cheerfully in gratifying their wishes, supplying their wants or alleviating their distresses; benignity of nature. Kindness ever accompanies love.
So, you see, it seems that niceness is more passive, whereas kindness is much more active. It’s intentional. If we are going to be contributing to the happiness of others, we have to be aware of what would truly gratify them. We have to observe the wants and needs of others if we are going to supply those wants or needs. How can we alleviate distress in each other’s lives if we don’t even take the time to see or acknowledge that distress?
Kindness opens its eyes to the world around us and asks, “How can I help? What can I do? Where can I be a blessing?” Kindness stops to listen. Kindness cares. Kindness leans in even when it’s not easy. And it doesn’t do this begrudgingly. It delights in contributing to the happiness and well being of others. Kindness is a tangible expression of love.
If we are going to love people, we have to know them. We have to take the time to lean in and listen.
And guess what else? Take a look at this:
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? -Romans 2:4
It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance! God is so, so kind to us, isn’t He? And not because we deserve it! His kindness towards us is not based on what we deserve but on who He is. God delights in being kind to us, in contributing to our happiness and well being, in alleviating our distresses. Why? Because He loves us. We do not earn God’s kindness. His kindness comes first and it’s His incredible, undeserved kindness that leads us to true repentance! The more we really grasp His love and kindness, the more readily we run to Him and away from sin (repentance).
Let us remember today the kindness of God towards us all and then be intentional about sharing that kindness with those around us. If you are a child of God, you are His hands and feet contributing to the benefit of others through kindness.
Look up to God, then look out to others. Lean in and love…even when those around you don’t deserve it, because that is exactly what God did (and does) for you!
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. -Luke 6:35