In the secular world, kindness is defined as being friendly and considerate. And while these are true definitions, the kindness we read about in the Bible goes deeper.
As far as kindness quotes go, Ephesians 4:32 is a benchmark statement all Christians should memorize and practice. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” In this context, kindness is more than performing kind acts every now and then. Instead, being kind is something we are by definition. It comes from the inside and shows up on the outside.
Christian kindness is a mindset shift—thinking of others first and ourselves second. It means living in such a way that we find ways to serve others through actions, words and deeds. It shows up when we give of ourselves (or our time, our energy, our money, etc.) out of love for others who may or may not return the gesture or even notice it.
Where does kindness come from?
Biblical kindness comes from a place of humility and is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Without this gift we are self-centred. The Spirit enables us to see past ourselves. Think of it this way: kindness is evidence of the Holy Spirit in us (Galatians 5:22). The more fruit the Spirit bears in us, the more we become like Christ.
When God’s kindness flows through us, we’re able to live out the words of Philippians 2:3-4, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
Watching out for others’ interests and not just our own is a radical shift that stands out in today’s self-obsessed world.
The benefits of kindness
Kindness has the power to change the trajectory of a disagreement and can soften hardened hearts. Kindness is what enables us to show mercy to those who don’t deserve it.
When we’re kind to others we make others feel good. At the same time, we experience a sense of well-being. Proverbs 11:17 says “Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.” Everyone wins when there’s kindness.
But is it kindness if we do it because it makes us feel good? Phoebe Buffay wrestled with this question in the Friends episode “The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS.” While discussing kindness and good deeds with her friend Joey, he argued there are no selfless good deeds. This inspired Phoebe to prove Joey wrong. After a few tries, she found what she believed was a truly selfless good deed but when she performed it she felt good about her action. Joey told her if good deeds make you feel good they aren’t selfless.
It feels good to be kind and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, Joey wasn’t completely off-base. At times, our motives for showing kindness can become twisted and we find ourselves being kind in order to be noticed by others or to get something in return. While the act itself may be kind, it’s coming from a selfish place and isn’t genuine.
How to become genuinely kind
Our natural instinct is to be self-focused. It takes the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to produce the fruit of genuine kindness, in concert with the other spiritual fruit like love, joy, peace and patience (Galatians 5:22-23).
When people talk about being kind they often suggest starting with kind deeds like picking up litter or holding a door open for someone. And those are excellent suggestions. When we’re not used to thinking about others and finding ways to be kind then it’s best to ease in and start small. As we grow in our relationship with God we’ll find ourselves inspired to do more and bigger kind actions and, over time, we will become genuinely kind from the inside out.
What else does the Bible say about kindness?
“What is desired in a man is kindness.”– Proverbs 19:22
Here are additional references about kindness for further study.
- Philippians 2:4
- Matthew 25:31-46
- Ephesians 4:31-32
- Titus 3:4-5
- Romans 2:4
- Romans 11:22
- Psalm 23:2-3
- Psalm 17:8
- Psalm 36:7
- Psalm 61:4
- Matthew 23:37
- 1 Kings 17:8-24
- Genesis 21:9-21
- Matthew 6:34
- Mark 7:29
- Mark 10:46-52
- Luke 15:3-7
- Isaiah 40:11
- 2 Corinthians 6:4-10
- Matthew 9:35-38
- 2 Peter 1:7
- Colossians 3:13
- Luke 6:31-34
Kindness is a Fruit of the Spirit, which represents proof of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. It manifests itself through good deeds, kind words and thoughtful gestures. Genuine kindness puts others’ needs before our own, even if it means we’re inconvenienced.
When people are kind to us it’s easy to be kind in return. But the true test comes when people are unkind—are we still able to practice kindness in the face of mistreatment? What if someone takes advantage of us? What if someone rips us off? And what if someone hurts us in a vulnerable moment? Can we still be kind in these moments?
There are legitimate risks for kind people, which is perhaps why we often don’t bother practicing kindness. It takes extra energy and effort to focus on others, so when it’s not appreciated or it’s thrown back in our face it causes us to reconsider.
Because God wants us to be kind, we should also want to be kind no matter the risk. But for this transformation and mindset shift to happen, our human nature must be replaced with God’s nature and this can only happen through receiving the Holy Spirit and allowing it to work within us, bearing fruit.