The word came up in two conversations on the same day. Whenever that kind of repetition happens, I try to stop and pay attention.
The first was a conversation with a colleague. She’d had an uncomfortable interaction with a client who was dissatisfied. The nature of the dissatisfaction was minor, and it wasn’t the result of anything she did wrong. Just one of those mishaps that happen in business and life, and she’d promised to make it right.
All good, right? Wrong. The client either didn’t care or couldn’t listen. Because rather than work together to resolve the situation, she continued to rant.
“I think what most disappoints me is her demeanor,” she told me. “I just wish she would’ve been kind.”
In other words, what hurt most wasn’t the mistake or even her dissatisfaction. What really stung was the fact that she couldn’t show even a smidgen of kindness when talking about it — like pouring lemon juice on a paper cut.
I nodded, understanding her hurt. I can handle feedback, even the occasional criticism. But a lack of basic human dignity and kindness? That does me in.
Later that same day, I received a message from a woman who read my book, Undone. In the pages, I talk about challenges in marriage and the hard years parenting our teenage boys. In response, she said this:
“It’s amazing how you’re so truthful about everything in such a nice way.” In other words, she noticed kindness.
Although I enjoyed a moment of satisfaction at her affirmation, it was quickly eclipsed by my memory of how many times I had not been kind while parenting. In fact, just the night before, I’d launched into my own rant toward a pint-sized family member who had been rude and disrespectful.
My hurt was valid. But was I kind? Nope. Not even a smidgen.
While kindness can, at times, be associated with weakness and meekness, it is anything but. In fact, it often requires extraordinary strength and courage to show kindness, especially to those who don’t deserve it. And let’s be clear: not a one of us “deserves” it all the time.
Kindness is the quality of being considerate, generous, warm, gentle. It’s being soft when the person across from you is hard, warm when she’s cold, full of refreshment when she has nothing to give. Kindness isn’t fair, just, or equal. Rather than reflecting the character of the recipient, it speaks volumes about the giver.
The Kindness Factor is the one light your life can’t live without. For those of us who have been loved by Jesus, we have no option but to love as He loved us. And His love is always wrapped up in kindness. He offers it to thieves, liars, and rebels, as well as the rude, offensive, and arrogant. In other words, every single one of us.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.
Hosea 11:4 (NIV)
So how do we stay kind in our day-to-day lives? How do we love like Jesus? These five practices can help:
1. Forgive. Unforgiveness eats kindness like fire eats wood. Douse it quickly before it wrecks every bit of your life. Keep short accounts. Let grievances go. Choose to be someone who is not easily offended.
2. Notice. It’s easy to slip into self-consumption, so wrapped up in our own life drama we fail to see the dramas playing out around us. Stop. Notice the faces right in front of you. Make eye contact. Ask questions. And listen. Leadership expert John Maxwell has said that he never leaves a conversation without adding value to the person he’s talking to. That’s a pretty amazing Kindness Practice.
3. Pause. Although I’m working on it, I’ve yet to learn the art of a well-placed pause. There are few things more powerful in a hard conversation than a pause and a deep breath before responding. When we pause, our bodies and brains have time to choose a kind response and not a reactive one.
4. Smile. There’s no shortage of research on the physiological and relational benefits of smiling. In short, smiling is good for you and everyone else. It’s contagious in the best possible way. When you choose to smile, even when you don’t feel like it, your body changes, which in turn changes your mood and capacity for kindness.
5. Celebrate. Find reasons to celebrate your friends, their successes, and even yourself. Make mini-celebrations part of every day by affirming what is good and beautiful and noble in your life and in the lives of others. Celebrate the gift of your life and the people who fill it. That, too, is a kindness.
Rather than try to master all five at once, pick one. Practice it for one full week. Then, circle back around and let us know how increasing your Kindness Factor shined a little extra light to your corner of the world. I’m confident that not only will those around you notice the difference, but your own heart will feel a bit brighter in the process.
Kindness isn’t fair, just, or equal. Rather than reflecting the character of the recipient, it speaks volumes about the giver. -@MicheleCushatt: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
This is so good, Michele! Thank you for your words 🙂
Michele Cushatt says
I’m glad it was helpful, Anne. Happy Sunday! xo
Michele Morin says
How incredibly redemptive it is when Truth does not have to be unkind.
Thank you so much for this encouragement to winnow kindness out of hard words that need to be said. We had a teenage run-in just yesterday, and I’m looking back at it with a measure of peace because we accomplished the purpose with out combustion, and then moved on.
I scribbled these 5 points onto a card and am going to start with Celebrate in honor of yesterday’s good conversation.
Michele Cushatt says
Oh, YES. Such a great idea, Michele! Celebrate the good conversation. Just because it was uncomfortable doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. As a mom of 3 former teens and 3 pre-teens, I celebrate with you!
Cathy Robertson says
I appreciate how you give clear, concise and practical ways to follow God’s word. Thank you
Michele Cushatt says
I’m glad, Cathy. I need all the practical, clear help I can get! 🙂
Beth Williams says
This world is so unkind & cold. Everyone is looking out for #1. They all seem to have the faces in their devices. We’ve lost the art of face to face conversations. Everyone is always in a rush & wants results now. Kindness takes thought & time. Jesus was kind to everyone no matter the situation. He may have been tired but took time to show love & compassion. Forgiveness is of utmost importance. Holding a grudge only hurts you & puts you in a bad mood. There is a saying “think before you speak”. I have done that some. It helps me to not say the wrong thing due a mood I’m in or something that just happened. Smiling comes naturally to me. I try to smile at people all the time. Just want to make them feel warm & loved-if only for a second. Love to celebrate small things in life. Recently got a good job & thanked God for it. Also celebrated my new employment. I celebrate getting something done right or remembering an important item. Our country is so divisive & hate filled that we need a kindness revolution. Start showing God’s love to all!
Michele Cushatt says
A kindness revolution would be a welcome thing right about now. And it starts with us. Thanks, Beth.
Lynn Koukal says
Practicing kindness is practicing love.
For others and for ourselves.
In learning how to be gentle with ourselves,we have that gentleness to extend to others.
I so admire kindness in others, it draws me to them. Especially having had a lot of unkindness happen in my life, I have come to know the value of it.
Now I will be practicing more as it is a fruit of The Spirit. And leading a spirit filled life reflects Jesus’ loving character. Being a believer and following Jesus’s ways, cause the changes in my character that bring him Glory, which he so deserves.
Thank you for sharing such a much needed message, it ministered to me big time.
Michele Cushatt says
“Practicing kindness is practicing love.” Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. Thanks, Lynn.
Irene Bandeen says
I’m going to try the “pause” more often. My prayer this year is to be kinder in my speaking and listening. You have encouraged me. Thank you!
Michele Cushatt says
“Pause” is probably the one I need to work on the most. Simply SLOWING DOWN will help curb my impulse to react. Nothing like a well-timed deep breath.
Lauren Griesmeyer says
Michele, Thankyou for this reminder to be kind! I try to be kind and polite wherever I go…..even to grocery clerks etc. It seems to go a long way towards shining the Light! Thankyou for this encouragement!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Like the kids song. Jesus would want us to do this type of Kindness also. As this Children songs says. I learnt it at Sunday School. It has stayed with me all my life. It is Jesus hands were kind hands doing good to all. That is one kind of Kindness Jesus would want us his Children big and small to have. No matter what age we are as we are all his Children. Love Dawn. Thank you so much for todays reading. It is excellent xxx
Thank-you for the time you put in to so thoughtfully put this forth. I’ve messed up already, and the day had just begun.
Have a blessed day all,
Michele Cushatt says
And look how quickly you recognized it and owned it! Now that’s reason to celebrate, Penny. We’re all learning. xoxoxox
Jenny K says
What beautiful truth, thank you!
Pearl Allard says
Michele, thank you. I appreciate your acknowledgment that kindness is not weakness or somehow flimsy. It often takes a good deal of grit. It reminds me of a line in The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. The good guys are fighting the bad guys and some of the good guys have defected and betrayed their own side by killing their own countrymen. Understandably, one of the good guys hurls insults at the betrayers. The good king reprimands this warrior with these words, “…peace, Eustace. Do not scold, like a kitchen-girl. No warrior scolds. Courteous words or else hard knocks are his only language.” Those lines gripped me. Obviously, a warrior fights with “hard knocks,” but to be told that your only language is courteous words? Sounds a lot like what you said about followers of Jesus being compelled to show kindness. Thanks, again.
Melody Luedke says
I truly appreciate these words, this reminder. I think we all struggle at times by “reacting” rather than taking that moment to think, breath, pray before we answer, before we “strike” back. I want to be always kind in my treatment of others, in my words, in my reactions. I am so happy to see the 5 points made. Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in myself that I realize I did not “notice”, I did not “see” the other person’s needs. I don’t want to do that – I want to be kind. So this has spoken volumes to me and I pray to keep this and those 5 points in mind from now on. I know I won’t be perfect, but I want to be kinder and to learn kindness and kindnesses ways for the future. Thank you.
Patricia Raybon says
Michele, thank you! What a beautiful Sunday message. So instructive and encouraging. I’m grateful for you, wonderful friend!
Glenda Goerzen says
Yes, I certainly want others to be kind to me–all the more reason to be kind to them.
Thank you for your kind words!
Now, maybe you can help me–I am still waiting for the (in)courage online Bible Study. My daughter gave me an (in)courage Devotional Bible for Christmas. I signed up for the study but I do not have Facebook.
Thank you so much for your time.
Kathryn Violago says
What a treasure to have stumbled through this today. I was just feeling stressed about one particular client who had so much high expectations and her demanding attitude regarding her son’s performance reminds me of a world where there is no room for kindness. And sometimes, I myself, have fallen into the trap of forgetting to be kind just to fulfill expectations. Some days I feel that I have to be less kind in order not to be stepped on– what irony. I do not want to live life this way– but there are hard days.
Becky Keife says
Love everything about this! Thank you. xx
Theresa Boedeker says
Love this. Kindness is such an important grease of human life. I have noticed my thought life has a lot to do with my kindness. When I give myself grace and kindness and not expect near perfection, it is so much easier to be kind to others. But when I am beating myself up and not forgiving of my self, kindness is so much harder to extend to others. And so now when I come across an unkind person, I try to have compassion on them. Because most likely they are not exhibiting any kindness to themselves either.