Galatians 5:22, 23—But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
In a 2011 U.S. News & World Report poll, 89% of Americans thought that rudeness, incivility, and a lack of kindness had become a serious problem. More than 75% said it had gotten worse in the last ten years. I would say that it’s not a problem; it’s an epidemic.
The Greek word for kindness in Galatians is chrestotes, which meant to be friendly to others and often depicted rulers, governors, or people who were kind, mild, and benevolent to their subjects. Anyone who demonstrated this quality of chrestotes was considered to be compassionate, considerate, sympathetic, humane, kind, or gentle.
In the setting of Galatians, it refers to a gift from God that is useful for others. Some of these nine gifts are for us, and some are for others. Kindness is reinforced in other settings and means to have integrity in relationships with others. The idea is that kindness is useful in our relationships, and by implication, it also can convey that harshness works against good relationships with others.
One scholar has noted that when the word chrestotes is applied to interpersonal relationships, it conveys the idea of being adaptable to others. Rather than harshly require everyone else to adapt to his own needs and desires, when chrestotes is working in a believer, he seeks to become adaptable to the needs of those who are around him.
Strong’s #5544: Kindness is goodness in action, sweetness of disposition, gentleness in dealing with others, benevolence, affability. The word describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing your patience.
Kindness is doing something and not expecting anything in return. Kindness is respecting and helping others without waiting for someone to help one back. It implies kindness no matter what. We should live out II Corinthians 6:6, 7—by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.
Every day we meet people who need to be treated kindly. So many people have burdens that are unbearable. And, what they need is an understanding and kind person to walk a mile in their shoes. The old expression “kill them with kindness” rings true. We can kill animosity, bitterness, anger, and hard feelings with a touch of kindness. Kindness puts people at ease. It communicates that we want the best for others, and that we are not out to get anyone. People feel safe around a kind person.
Proverbs 15:1—A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. We are predisposed to becoming unkind when we sense someone is being unkind to us. It’s a defense mechanism. The lack of kindness in our relationships with others conveys arrogance and superiority. When we are unkind we communicate to others that we think we are better than they are. Fortunately, God is able to press our hearts’ “default button,” which returns us to our original state of kindness.
The next time someone treats us unkindly, we should quietly take a breath and then respond thoughtfully to that person. Our frustration will subside. Our anger will melt away. The unkind person will in turn become kind and considerate.
Kindness reveals that we want to be as considerate of others as God has been considerate of us. God is characterized by love and kindness. God is forgiving and understanding. God is tolerant and accepting. Kindness is giving others a taste of God’s love. It is treating everyone with respect. It is using gentle words even in the most exasperating circumstances. It is providing a helping hand to others.
By performing acts of kindness for others, we are helping to create communities that value generosity of spirit, action, and goodness toward others as essential parts of a healthy society. Random acts of kindness are a means by which we make a deliberate attempt to brighten another person’s day by doing something thoughtful, nice, and caring for them.
You see, we have the God-given power within us to change ourselves and others. Operating in this fruit is a way of showing others that they count and that, even in the face of hostility and selfishness, we are making a stand for kindness.
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.”—Jeremiah 9:23, 24
…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.—Ephesians 2:7
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior—Titus 3:4–6
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.—Luke 6:35
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering—Colossians 3:12
“That best portion of a good man’s life, his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”—William Wordsworth
“The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer somebody else up.”—Mark Twain
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty”—Anne Herbert
“Kindly words do not enter so deeply into men as a reputation for kindness.”—Mencius
“Recompense injury with justice and recompense kindness with kindness.”—Confucius
“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”—Albert Schweitzer
“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”—Anonymous
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”—Aesop
Challenge: Practice kindness this week. Here are some ideas:
- Be thoughtful
- Use manners
- Be generous with compliments
- Thank people who make a difference
- Cheer up lonely people
- Be kind to your colleagues
- Send a message to someone
- Forgive somebody
- Share a smile
- Do all this and expect nothing in return