The Foolishness of Kindness

Sharon Sanctification 11 Comments

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I really, really, REALLY dislike politics. I dislike the election season even more. Although I appreciate the need for elections and politicians, I do not appreciate the incivility they arouse in Americans. So much of it is disappointing, and I often find myself tempted to become cynical.

Which is why, as the election season gears up, I want to offer a brief reflection on the importance of kindness. Although kindness is a fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22) it doesn’t get much attention. It’s one of those vanilla fruits that we all assume we’re supposed to reflect but we don’t give much thought to. Of course we’re supposed to be kind. Now let’s get to the more interesting stuff like Calvinism!

To me, kindness seems like a rather bland topic, but lately God has been teaching me how truly important yet difficult it is. It requires  a kind of inner fortitude that we Christians rarely praise because I don’t think we recognize it.

You see for me, the reason that kindness is difficult is not because other people are mean and I don’t like being nice to mean people. My desire to be liked can easily overcome that obstacle. Instead, kindness is difficult because I don’t like it when people think I’m stupid.

Merriam-Webster defines “kind” as “loving, gentle, sympathetic, and helpful.” And while those adjectives all sound great in theory, they often require us to look foolish when our pride urges reprisal. Rather than launch a verbal assault on the person who insulted me or spoke condescendingly to me, I am called to respond gently, sincerely, and kindly–a response that, to many people, indicates an inability to respond with equal competence and strength.

Sometimes I think the world looks at Christians with our persistent smiles and insistence on hope and joy, and they assume we don’t know any better. We have brainwashed ourselves, or we are too sheltered from the world, or we simply don’t know how to engage in the rhetorical sparring of higher minds. In short, kindness is interpreted as stupidity. We are simpletons. And that is what challenges me most about kindness.

Of course, being kind does not mean being silent. We can engage in public discourse and articulate our thoughts in both eloquent and kind ways. But following the gospel also means “turning the other cheek” upon being slapped, and “if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” (Matt. 5:39-40) It is a radical kindness that looks like weakness but is actually strength.

Kindness requires perseverance in the face of no appreciation. Kindness is, for that reason, not for the faint of heart. It emanates from a type of strength that the world does not always recognize, and often interprets as foolishness.

We see this truth no more clearly than on the cross. Jesus could have leaped from that cross and silenced his executioners in a moment, using both verbal prowess and supernatural strength. He could have behaved like the worldly king they challenged him to be. Instead, he chose to look foolish for the redemption of the world.

Whether you find yourself engaged in political discussions, dealing with an inconsiderate co-worker, doing life with your family, or faced with a less-than-attentive waiter, remember the strength and power of kindness. To the world it may seem that we just don’t know any better, or that we are too dumb to know we are being insulted. But those opinions appeal solely to personal ego. The only opinion that matters is God’s, and the fruit of His Holy Spirit is kindness.

Comments 11

  1. V Vanevenhoven

    Hi Sharon! Each time you’ve mentioned politics on your blog a very old middle school memory immediately comes to mind. I clearly remember the start of a speech you gave in (I think) sixth grade: “Politics. Poli meaning many. Ticks meaning bloodsucking insects.” I couldn’t tell you the subject of any speech I or anyone else gave in middle school.. but for whatever reason, yours has stuck in my mind all these years! Sorry to comment off-topic but I couldn’t resist sharing. Best wishes to you, Ike and the little one!
    -(Lauren) V

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    Sharon

    By the way, I can’t take credit for that quote. I’m pretty sure it originated with Dave Berry.

    Still laughing–I can’t believe you remembered that!

  4. Eyvonne

    Several months ago a Proverbs 31 verse overwhelmed me and I made it my daily meditation.

    She opens her mouth in wisdom,
    And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26)

    I’m certain that linking wisdom and kindness is intentional in this verse. If I want to be wise, then kindness will be on my tongue. In addition to being kind, I will teach kindness. It will be the theme of all my interactions. This is tough, but meditating on it has made me more aware and has helped to shape my behavior and has improved many of my relationships — especially professional ones.

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  6. Amy Simpson

    Great observation, Sharon. In this age of savvy, sassy, and cynical, kindness is often despised as a quality for simpletons. Hadn’t really thought about that. Thanks for your challenge to show kindness anyway!

  7. Alexia

    I have older teens and a young adult and when asked about my parenting I always say to younger moms, ” If I could go back, I would be much more intentional in teaching and modeling kindness to my children.” I thought I was/did, but see its greater value today.

  8. Judy Allen

    I would love to see Christians lead the way in demonstrating kindness and respect towared each other in political discussions. We are first brothers and sisters in Christ, so we ought to be able to put our political differences in the proper perspective. I can dream…

  9. sabrina

    I might be missing the point of your post with this side question of mine, but are we to always “turn the other cheek” and give our ‘coat’ when someone wants to sue us and take our shirt? Are we supposed to ‘conditionalize’ this command? My instinct is to think there should some boundaries and yet I can’t think of a ‘biblical’ argument for that.

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    Sharon

    Sabrina that is an EXCELLENT question. I think the context of these commands is the assumption that you could resist if you wanted to–ie. you have the power to resist–but you choose not to. That said, in cases of abuse in which a woman is trapped in a relationship, she is not required to stay and “turn the other cheek.” On the contrary, she needs to flee immediately and get help.

    Also, I don’t think this verse applies when you are enabling a pattern of sin. If turning the other cheek requires us to be complicit in another person’s sin, then that, to me, seems to conflict with the Christian call. But that is more my opinion, and I think it would need to be discerned in a case by case situation.

  11. Tim

    “Kindness is … not for the faint of heart.”

    True, true!

    Tim

    P.S. On a side note, I remember hearing a seromon once on the fruit of the Spirit where the preacher shoved kindness and goodness together and said they were essentially the same thiung. They’re not.

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