Let’s analyse the idea of kindness – being kind to people.
First, it’s worth noting that the spring that feeds a flow of kindness is love. The reason a person acts in a kind way towards others is that there is love in that person’s heart. A loving attitude impels us towards kind thoughts, words and actions. Where there is a loving heart, kind things will pour out – always fresh, never running low. The stream of kindness flows because of the rising spring of love. But there also needs to be a measure of self control. Sometimes the instinct to be kind can result in thoughtless acts that embarrass or distress; kindness must be appropriate and considered.
Kindness is fundamentally a thing of great joy. If we are kind out of a sense of duty or if we have a grudging attitude, there will an absence of that wonderful enabler – a joyful heart. A kind act without joy may be useful and of great benefit, but it will never be a pretty thing. Even worse is kindness with a hidden motive. If I want something in return, my kind behaviour is no more than a calculated trade; there’s an expectation. This is kindness used as a wrapper to hide something else. The missing ingredient here is gentleness. Kindness must be a gentle thing, demanding nothing in return, offering benefit at no cost.
And kindness is always a thing of peace, without this essential element it may involve serious danger. Maybe you find it hard to imagine kindness without peace; but what happens when we want to be kind to an enemy? There are plenty of stories of wartime situations where a noble act of kindness has bridged the gulf between those on opposite sides of the battle. The counterfoil here is faithfulness. If we are to be kind in the middle of an argument, or much more a war, we will need to be faithful. But faithful to what? Faithful at the very least to strength of character and to courage and to the deep wisdom that even my enemy is a fellow human being, that there is a bond deeper even than existential danger.
Finally, kindness requires patience. It’s so important to wait for the right moment, to be sensitive to the feelings of other people. Nothing is more damaging to an attempt to be kind than the haste that overlooks the nuances of the situation. And what does patience need as a companion? Goodness. So how do we define that? It’s the thing that distinguishes what is right and what is not, a bit like conscience I suppose. Goodness is hard to define because it’s internal and may not be detectable from the outside. Goodness is about motivation, it’s allied to gentleness.
Let’s lay these concepts out, with kindness at the centre. We have:
Love, joy, peace, patience
Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control
When Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians, one of the things he told them was this.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self controlGalatians 5:22
So be kind whenever and wherever you can. There are plenty of opportunities in the world. Be kind to friends and family, be kind to the people you work with, be kind to your neighbours, to strangers, and yes – be kind to those people who are not kind to you, those who behave like enemies. Kindness never does any harm, and sometimes it can be quite disarming.