I love this image. It was just something I happened upon on Pinterest, but it so sums up for me what comes to mind when I think about kindness. Being with someone, coming alongside them and being what they need at a given point in time.
The Message translates the verse as ‘Love cares more for others than for self’. I love this. That’s ultimately what kindness is, isn’t it? Putting someone before yourself. Giving them what they need over what you might need, or think you need. And doing it without expectation of anything in return.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is a whimsical, skipping-amongst-the-daisies act to live out. Putting people before ourselves is so often counter-intuitive and ‘unnatural’ for us. As human beings, there is much of us that is inherently selfish and self-serving, and to put that aside and consider what someone else might need and act on that, whilst at the same time considering what we need, is not something that tends to come naturally to most of us. At least, that’s been my experience, I’d love to hear your views and experiences, so please feel free to share!
I believe that that this is one of the hardest things we are faced with in relationships – serving the other, and putting them and their needs before ourselves. Of course, in a perfect world, if we all did this, then everyone would be serving everyone else, and everyone’s needs would be met! But as we know, this isn’t the case, and many hurts and much pain is caused by lack of kindness in relationships.
Relationships ebb and flow. I think of them as being like a see-saw – sometimes my needs are greater, and I pray that the people around me can help me with what I need. And vice versa, there are times when I need to put my self aside and be whatever someone needs me to be for them. Let me be very clear, however – I am not talking about letting people walk over you and abuse your heart. That is not kindness or grace, and is an abuse of power in a relationship.
Kindness comes in the big and the small things. From smiling at a stranger who looks like they just need someone to care, to giving up our time and serving in our communities. Sitting with a friend while she cries hot tears and taking a meal to a family wearied by life. Swallowing our opinions (when we think they would really really help) because the other person just needs to offload, and doing things we really don’t like doing, just because someone else does.
Kindness doesn’t cost anything, but it is the greatest gift we can give. It is one of the foundations of how we are to live – Jesus tells us this is what we need to do, to love one another, as He loved us. And if love is kind, then we are to be kind.
Show kindness. Speak kindness. Live kindness. In the small and the big, when you feel like it, and when you don’t. A little kindness goes a long way, and its’ effects are far reaching, beyond what we can see.