It’s been hard to watch the news lately. I have always begun my day by checking the headlines. I believe it’s important to be informed. To be aware of what’s going on in the region, nation and world. But it’s also discouraging. It’s a depressing way to begin each day, quite frankly, hearing about shootings and arguments and unkindness running rampant everywhere you look.
That word: kindness – or the lack thereof – has been on my mind recently. The Oxford on-line dictionary defines kindness as, “the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate”. I’ll buy that definition.
The “Urban Dictionary” (a crowd-sourced online dictionary, operating under the motto, “define your world”), on the other hand, defines kindness as, “doing something and not expecting anything in return.” While I typically may be uninclined to accept a dictionary which “defines its world” by many people entering their own ideas of what a word means, I do like this added meaning to the word.
Kindness is lamentably lacking in our society today. That’s why news agencies — be they national or local — do their best to report “feel good” stories. They need stories of friendly, kind behavior to counteract all of the stories about wickedness that fill the headlines. They know that we as consumers of their news need something to offset the depressing reports.
We need, in short, more kindness in our lives.
I looked up “kindness” in the Bible. In the New International Version, which is what I often use, the word “kindness” appears 56 times. The vast majority of those instances are examples where people are discussing a kindness which has been shown to them, whether through people or from God.
In the New Testament, the word is often associated with Jesus. Titus 3:4, 5 is an example: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” I have long loved this verse. God our Savior … ie Jesus … is defined as “the kindness and love of God." Jesus Christ, God’s love and kindness incarnate, saved us because of his mercy. Not because we deserved it.
Now that’s kindness. That’s “friendly, generous and considerate." That’s “doing something and not expecting anything in return."
The Bible further discusses kindness in Galatians 5:22,23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
No God-ordained law forbids kindness. Kindness is foundational. It is shown when we are living our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Which, come to think of it, is probably why it’s so missing from society today. There are a lot of people who are not living their lives with the Holy Spirit in control. Which is not to say that it’s impossible to be kind apart from God … thankfully … but it is a whole lot easier.
I recently saw yet another definition of kindness. It was in a meme, which a friend posted on Facebook. It read, “Kindness: Loaning someone your strength instead of reminding them of their weakness.”
I like this added dimension to the concept. I’d like to live in a world where people are friendly, generous, and considerate of others. I’d like to live in a world where these things are given without expectation of return. I’d like to live in a world where we uphold each other when strength is needed rather than tearing each other down when we perceive weakness.
I’d like, in short, to live in a world with more kindness. And as the song says, “let it begin with me."
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.