Kindness is part of the fruit of the Spirit that is often overlooked. Still, you know it when you experience it. It can be shown through grand gestures or small everyday moments. Just get in your car and drive a couple of miles down the road and you can feel the silent yet demonstrative aggression that is prevalent. You know the relief and feeling you get when someone lets you into the lane in just the perfect time? That is just a small example of kindness.
The following are 8 ways to grow kindness in our lives. But first, let’s first dig into the soil to understand what kindness really is.
What Is Kindness?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
To show kindness means exhibiting a lot of similar characteristics some of which include being a considerate person, a good friend, and being generous with your time and gifts. More examples of kindness could be showing empathy, listening to a friend’s troubles, asking how someone is and really listening to their answer, granting mercy to someone, placing someone’s needs above your own, smiling at someone as you walk by, or just holding the door open for someone. We are all imperfect people but the more we can strive to live out the characteristics of kindness the more our corner of the world and sphere of influence will be pleasant to live in.
Understand What Kindness is Not
Just as important as it is to understand what kindness is, we also need to be familiar with what it is not. Being kind does not mean:
- Being a doormat for someone
- Allowing disrespect or negligence that could harm yourself or others
- Keeping silent when injustice is performed.
Although we are called to love others, we cannot let the strive to be seen as kind swallow up wisdom from God and discernment in critical matters. What this may look like in your life could be different than others, but when your safety is involved, seek wise council and move forward with grace. Being a kind person means being kind to yourself as well as others.
With the understanding of what kindness is, and what it isn’t, here are 8 ways to grow the good fruit of kindness in your life:
1. Remember Your Blessings
When I am stuck in a rut or feel the walls of everyday life crumbling around me, I can be inclined to put up a wall between me and those I meet. What helps me to keep an internal spring of kindness in trying times is to remember my blessings. Looking at what God has done for me in the past and the relationships He has blessed me with changes my outlook on my own circumstances leaving me more inclined to be kind. I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase, “Hurt people, hurt people.” This reminds me that if someone is rude or hurtful to me, I’m not to respond in a like manner, but should instead pray blessings for them.
2. Keep Connection with Your Father
We can’t do this alone. Connection to our Father through Bible study, prayer, and worship can help to keep our hearts softened and sensitive to what He wants to say to us. If you find yourself in a situation with another, whether it’s a personal or work relationship, and you don’t know how to respond, being in direct connection with Christ is a direct lifeline to the answer.
His encouragement and advice will help to nurture the soil in our hearts to grow the fruit of kindness. Sensitivity to others is a key characteristic of those that are kind and compassionate. Ways that help me to be more sensitive is growing in the area of listening, not just hearing. Asking questions that are pertinent to the information someone is sharing gives us a better picture of what they are going through and opens communication with kindness.
3. Be Kind to Yourself
So maybe kindness to other people is something you’ve been working on or feel pretty competent in. What about how you treat yourself? In Matthew 22:39 we are called to, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Being kind to yourself is not vanity although many of us think it’s ok to be more critical of ourselves than others. As I tell my patients at work, we are the only ones that hear what we say more than any other person. If I am going to speak kindly to others, then I also need to speak kindly to myself. Giving myself grace when I don’t get all of my tasks done. Giving my mind a chance to rest when emotions are high. Smiling at myself when I look in the mirror because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. These are little ways we can be more internally kind.
4. Be Others-Minded
Growing kindness in your life takes time. If you are someone that is new to the idea of self-improvement or betterment, you may want to just start in the areas of volunteering. Whether this is through your church, school, or a local organization, volunteering is a great way to bestow kindness on others. You can find ways to volunteer that also are in line with your strengths. When our interests and personal strengths line up to the needs of those around us, a heavenly chorus sounds. Using what you are gifted in takes less effort and produces joy for all of those involved. That is a great way to exhibit kindness to those in your community and across the globe.
5. Smile More
It is said that just the act of smiling can trigger your brain to produce feel good chemicals in your body. I mentioned earlier how just the act of smiling at ourselves in the mirror is an act of kindness to ourselves. Think how meaningful it could be when you smile at another person too! It cannot only help our minds feel better but can bless someone else! Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying as being fake; however. You can tell when someone’s smile is just plastered on and when it comes from their spirit. For some of us, we feel other people’s feelings easily and can gauge how they are based on their disposition. When you have that capability, it’s a service of kindness to smile at them and at least try to uplift their day one moment at a time.
6. Help Someone Who Can’t Help You
When thinking of kindness, I am certain that tithing to your local church or giving to charity is one that would cross your mind. Giving away money or items to those that need it is a great step in paying kindness forward to another that may not have the financial opportunities that you are blessed with. Although money is not an object to be idolized, it is a pertinent factor to maintain a home over our heads, food on our table, and clothes on our back. Living in a state of kindness keeps greediness at bay. Our money is not our own and what better what to give kindness than to offer financial assistance to missions, the homeless, those that are sick, going through unemployment, or giving through any other means.
7. Guard Your Mind and Mouth
Luke 6:45 is a great reminder of the importance of taking care of what we store in our hearts, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” By understanding the condition of our hearts, we can water the soil from which the seed of kindness grows.
Words are powerful. What we say to others can be a catalyst for positive or negative emotional change. Speaking words that are true and kind can be a balm to a hurting soul. Unsure of what to say to a hurting friend or how to handle an argumentative person? Look into the Word, ask a trusted mentor, or respond with validation that they have been heard. In addition to being kind to others, make sure that you are being kind to yourself in words and thoughts as well.
8. Study How Jesus Lived
There is a worship song called “Your Kindness” by Leslie Phillips that I am reminded of when I think of Jesus’ kindness to us. The lyrics go, “It's your kindness that leads us to repentance, Oh Lord. Knowing that You love us no matter what we do, makes us want to love You too.”
Seeing how Jesus embodied the fruit of the Spirit, being the purest essence of kindness himself, inspires me to live like Him. Jesus loved, listened, healed, taught, directed, and saved. What better example could we have than Jesus when learning how to be kind to our brothers and sisters in Christ through the ups and downs of this life. He is, in fact, the most loving friend anyone can have. As it says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I am so grateful for His love and kindness to us. May we all strive to live like Christ, one act of kindness at a time.
Image Credit: ©GettyImages/Chaay_Tee
Mandy Smith is a joyful 30-something single living in GA. She is a full-time Speech-Language Pathologist. Her loves include Jesus, her family and friends, creativity, playing guitar and singing, coffee, laughing, and of course, writing! You can read more of her writing on her website www.myjoyousheart.com and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.