I’ve been begging God to show me the true meaning of this one for years, and this last week He has been doing it in a big way – both by showing me the real thing and the counterfeit. He has shown me people that talk kindness versus people who do kindness.
Just as God’s laws at the time of Moses were counter-cultural – rights for female prisoners of war, unprecedented protections for women in general, mandatory support for the needy and oppressed and foreigners, etc. – so also is the Fruit of the Spirit counter-cultural. We (and they) live in a society where peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control are seen as weakness, as naive – and even as dishonest – as though it is somehow a virtue to run our mouths off without restraint, as though hurting people simply because we are angry and offended is somehow to be equated with honesty. It isn’t so much honest as simply immature, even when we try to couch our anger and offense in passive-aggressive terms – as though anger can be masked as love and offense as concern.
Kindness does not seek to humiliate, that is one I am really learning in a big way. Kindness seeks to curb behavior for the good of the person displaying that behavior, but is careful about how it goes about it. Kindness doesn’t generally take shortcuts, because kindness is nurturing and nurturing takes time. Kindness builds before it tears down – kindness makes sure that restoration is clearly seen within reach before the correction is given. Kindness grieves over the rebuke, and kindness never manipulates.
Kindness knows the difference between sin and annoyances – and believe me there is a big difference. Not everything that annoys me is sin and in fact probably most things that annoy me aren’t sin, nor is everything that offends me sin. If I was kinder, I know that would temper my responses – and my thoughts.
Kindness is the aspect of love that covers sin until the person is mature enough to confront and conquer it – kindness is that aspect of love that truly looks at a person as a work in progress, a good work to be supported and not simply lamented over as being a hopeless case – at least not as long as we have the ability to deal with it without bringing damage to ourselves. Kindness is also that aspect of love that causes us to see others as real human beings and not just as our personal resources. Kindness isn’t a tattletale but a comrade. I am finding that kindness is the prerequisite of patience. One must possess kindness, an awareness and compassion of the current limitations of others, before one can have enduring patience for those limitations.
I struggle with both of these greatly.
Kindness isn’t always about people who are always speaking softly and carrying no stick, but about people who truly have to blow a lot of dust off that stick whenever they take it out. When I see the stick of a truly kind person come out, I pay attention – their kindness has earned my respect. Kindness is too kind to point itself out, just as humility is also. As soon as I hear people tell me they are kind, I step back and wait for the slap, because it’s generally on it’s way – they just want me to perceive that slap as kindness. They are priming me to accept their version of the story before they ever tell it. People who are quick to point out a virtue are generally getting ready to violate it at your expense.
But as Mark Twain said – kindness doesn’t need to be announced. Even the blind can see it and the deaf can hear it. Indeed, kindness is a language worth learning and speaking.