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How to cultivate a lifestyle of kindness

Kindness
Matt Collamer Unsplash.com

It had happened again. I just couldn’t believe it. Seriously? How could I be so absent-minded?

I had double-booked myself, totally forgetting about a prior commitment I had made, only realizing a mere 24 hours prior to the double scheduled events. For some this may not have been a big deal, but the friend that I had to cancel on is extremely punctual and organized.

Honestly, our senses of time have always been at odds.

By nature, I’m not guided by any sort of inner clock. I live in the moment. But I am self-aware enough to know that’s not how everyone operates. In recent years, I’ve tried my best to be respectful of my more punctual friends, but this time I’d failed. Big. I had inconvenienced and disappointed my friend, and I knew it.

I was in need of kindness and forgiveness.

The point is that my friend had every right to be frustrated. But God used this situation (and my friend’s response) in an unexpected way in my life: to remind me to be kind. It was through this situation that I was convicted of how frequently I scrutinize and judge others when I have no idea what is going on in their life.

The inspiration for kindness

I’ve often approached frustrating social situations with an attitude of “how could you …” instead of “how are you …”— focused on the inconvenience it has caused me as opposed to the well-being of the other person involved. My friend did the latter. She asked how I was doing and what was going on. By doing so, she turned a frustrating situation into an opportunity for connection and growth.

Are you like me? Far too often I have been quick to reach frustration with others and abounding in judgment and harshness. Furthermore, I assume the way I would respond to others is the way God responds to me.

Thankfully, we serve a God who does the exact opposite. Psalm 86:15 says, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” “Steadfast love” is often translated as “loving kindness.” Our God is abounding with kindness.

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The word “easy” in verse 30 can be translated as “kind.”

“My yoke is kind and my burden is light.” What a relief. That is the God we serve.

Putting kindness in action

So how does a person set out to practice more kindness?

I could provide you a list of cutesy ideas of how to be more kind to those around you — pay for the person’s coffee behind you in line; things of that nature. Nothing wrong with sharing those types of ideas but I don’t think we primarily lack ideas on how to be kind. Pursuing kindness for kindness’ sake will only last so long; trying harder will only get you so far.

Cultivating a lifestyle of kindness 

My motivation to be kind to others must come from the understanding that God has been endlessly kind to me. He didn’t have to save me from sin and death, but in His loving kindness, He did. Ultimately, the Bible says that God’s kindness is what leads us to repentance of sin (Rom. 2:4), not His severity, not fear of judgment, not our own internal sense of right and wrong. God’s kindness leads us to repentance.

Truthfully, the root issue of unkindness is that we have not fully internalized God’s immeasurable kindness toward us. We are like the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. This chilling parable details how the master forgave an enormous debt (about 20 years’ worth of wages) of his servant only for the servant to turn around and demand a debt (about 1 day’s worth of wages) be paid to him by a fellow servant. The unmerciful servant had his fellow servant thrown in prison until the debt was paid. When the master found out, he was angry and said, “You wicked servant. I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”

So again, how do we become more kind? Cultivating a lifestyle of kindness requires a heart change.

Marvel daily at the kindness and grace God has shown to you. Then seek to share that same level of kindness with others. Through slowing down and meditating on the kindness of God, I’m confident He’ll bring to mind the specific kind actions and people He has prepared for you.

When my friend decided to approach my scheduling mishap with kindness, she chose connection over correction. She chose relationship over rebuke. Our friendship, already 16 years strong, grew even stronger. Because of her lifestyle of kindness, my friend ministered God’s compassion and kindness to me in a time when I needed encouragement. I’m thankful for her example.

How will you be a vessel of God’s kindness today?

Erin Englert is a communications specialist at Christian Care Ministry/Medi-Share. She loves being a wife and first-time mama. She's spent time working in education, youth ministry, administration, and now communications. Erin works in Christian Care Ministry's Colorado office and loves to hike, mountain bike, rock climb, backpack, and hunt in her free time.

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