Knowing that love is the central attribute of God, and recognizing that we wish to pattern our lives after the model of Christ, I thought it important to take some time diving a little deeper into what love looks like when demonstrated in our own lives. Today I want to look at the topic of kindness. In I Corinthians chapter 13, the famous “love” chapter, Paul states in verse 4 that love is kind. Therefore, if we want to demonstrate love to one another, we must learn to speak and act with kindness.
It only takes a moment to smile at someone and engage them in eye contact. Simply taking the time to recognize another person attributes value to them. We are communicating that we esteem them worthy of our time, and that small piece of encouragement alone can turn around someone’s day. Haven’t you had that happen to you? You can be having a miserable day, only to get stuck in a long line at the checkout counter, when a complete stranger disarms you with a smile. It’s hard to remain mired in pity when confronted with kindness. It’s an interesting dichotomy how easy it is to feel all alone in a world of nearly seven billion people, but having someone favor us with a smile reminds us that we are not alone, that we are all in this together.
The words we speak are vitally important to how well we reflect kindness. Words can heal and words can destroy. They are powerful and must be carefully chosen. Ephesians 4:29 says that “No rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need.” We are all in need of being built up. Life has a way of beating us down, so having someone speak encouraging words into our situation is extremely refreshing and gives us the strength to persist in our journey. Since you know how much it means when someone speaks kindly to you, why not practice this towards others as well?
We all need to develop the habit of recognizing opportunities for kindness. I have started to begin my morning by praying that God would reveal the occasions where I can act kindly throughout my day; I ask him to light them up like neon signs, because I can be self-absorbed and easily miss things that aren’t staring me in the face. When you get the chance, make sure that you take it. Respond in kindness; buy a cup of coffee for someone, compliment someone’s new outfit, hold the elevator, open the door or assist in carrying something heavy. There are multitudes of ways you can show kindness to another every single day. Pray for recognition of these opportunities and for a heart of kindness that will compel you to respond to them.
One great suggestion I once read was to keep a log of every unkind word you speak or deed you perform for an entire day or week. If you will diligently record the ways you act unkindly, you will not only be mortified, but you will be determined to change. Here’s the hard part: once you have your list, go back and apologize to everyone to whom you were unkind. This will develop an attitude of humility, and I assure you the experience will leave you wanting to make certain you never have to go through it again. As you become painfully aware at the unkind choices you make, kindness will begin to develop as a habit in your life. Demonstrating your new habit to others will soon become second nature.
Ask God to reveal opportunities for kindness to you throughout your day, and also for the courage to take action when you see them. Guard your tongue against spiteful or damaging words and discipline yourself to speak only words of encouragement. Pray for God’s help with this, because it cannot be done in our own strength. Consider keeping a journal of unkind words you speak and follow up with an apology; it will be a life-altering experience. As kindness becomes a new habit for us, we will grow in love. To grow in love is to grow in Christ. And this is the goal, is it not? Begin practicing today and others will see the love of Christ reflected in you.