By Karen O’Connor
On a hot day, what could be more refreshing than a cold drink? My favorite is a fruit smoothie. I like mango-pineapple or peach and melon. One sunny afternoon I stopped at a local smoothie shop and glanced at the menu board before making my selection. The sidebar boasted a list of “boosts” that could be added to the basic drink—energy, immune, or antioxidant. I could leave the place flying. Which one should I choose?
But then I realized what I really needed was a boost of kindness. I had been frustrated with a neighbor that day and my husband and I had exchanged a few words I wasn’t happy about. Yes, I needed the fruit of the Spirit Paul talks about in the Bible: “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. . . Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).
My mind wandered as I waited for the server to prepare my drink. A boost to my immune system or my energy level would have been welcome on that warm day when I had a pile of work waiting for me in my office, but would either one matter if I didn’t also boost my spirit with kindness? I had some cleaning up to do—starting with asking God for forgiveness regarding my neighbor and then my husband for the unkind way I handled our conversation that morning.
The fruit we eat nourishes our bodies but the fruit of the Spirit nourishes our souls. I don’t want to forget that. We already know it’s not enough to spout a Bible verse and then live as though we’ve never heard it. So what does it mean to be kind? What can we do to express this fruit of the Spirit in tangible and practical ways? Here are some of my thoughts about how to experience and express kindness as a way of life.
Fruitful Living Leads to Kindness
Shortly after I declared to God and myself that I would be kinder throughout the new year, I spotted a post on Facebook from a friend asking the question, “If you could choose a word you want to live by in the new year, what would it be?” I didn’t have to think twice. “Kindness,” I replied immediately. Put another way, I commit to being friendly, generous, and considerate toward all people––no matter how I feel about them.
Paul spoke with wisdom when he encouraged believers to walk in the fruit of the Spirit and be examples to others. That’s my goal. Sometimes, however, it’s a challenge.
I know this from experience. Recently I attended a wedding. One of the guests is someone whose personality has always prickled me. This time instead of avoiding her, I took a risk and sat down and asked her about her job, her plans for the year, and her family. I decided to be kind. Within a few minutes we were laughing and chatting as though we were old friends. Since then she has contacted me several times. I now wonder why I ever thought she was difficult. Maybe I was the culprit because of my judgmental attitude toward her when she said or did something that rubbed me the wrong way. It was a good reminder of my commitment to be kind.
Fruitful Giving Leads to Kindness
I used to get stuck protecting and defending my behavior and gave little thought to restoring relationships. As I see it, kindness is the answer, and not just in spirit, but in ways people can see and feel:
• a smile, a hug, or a warm handshake
• a listening ear when someone is struggling with a problem
• a helping hand when you see a neighbor or friend in a bind
• a small gift or short note that says “I love you” or “I’m thinking of you.”
We’ll always encounter situations and individuals that rankle us, but we can overcome these challenges by expressing simple acts of kindness––which give our lives a boost as well.
When I’m feeling stuck, I often turn to Psalm 32:8: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go” (New American Standard Bible). I feel confident the Lord will then lead me right back to Paul’s words in Galatians 5:22-26.
Fruitful Sharing Leads to Kindness
My sister came to our house for a visit a few weeks ago. She’s been ill and her husband is now in a home for people with dementia. Life’s been tough for the two of them.
My husband and I wanted to pamper her a bit. We made sure she had plenty of time to read, rest, relax, and do as much or as little as she wanted. How easy it was to share our home and our life with her. It didn’t cost us a thing. In fact, I’m sure we received more than we gave. Sharing is like that. As we give to others, God gives it right back to us. Kindness works both ways.
Afterward I received an e-mail from my sister with the following message: “I’m telling everyone who asks about my trip how wonderful it was and how caring, attentive, and easy you both were to be with.”
I closed my eyes and smiled, thanking God for helping me do the very thing I said I wanted to do with my life this year—express kindness. I began to see how little it takes to live in the Spirit and to share it with others.
Fruitful Praying Leads to Kindness
For more than 20 years I’ve benefitted from the faithful prayers of a praying friend. She asks for my requests several times a year, sends me some of her drawings and matching Bible verses to encourage me, and drops many kind words into my life by phone and e-mail. If someone were to ask me what kindness looks like, I’d point to Sandy. She not only anticipates what a person needs and wants, she delivers it in small acts of kindness, the most important of which is faithful prayer.
When it comes to kindness, however, no one can out give the Lord. “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons” (Acts: 14:17, NIV). And he encourages us: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Karen O’Connor is a freelance writer living in Watsonville, California. www.karenoconnor.com
“The Magic of Kindness” by Wayne Jackson
“Kindness” by Dorothea J. Lotter
“The Kindness of God” by F. A. Hughes