What is Kindness?

Recently I was asked to write an article for The Lutheran Ambassador, the magazine published by my denomination (AFLC). Their theme for June is the fruit of the Spirit, and the topic I was given was kindness. You can read it below. You can also subscribe to The Lutheran Ambassador for free by following this link https://www.aflc.org/lutheran-ambassador!

Kindness.  We know it when we see it, but it’s hard to pin down a definition.  Google it and you’ll find it described as:

“the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate”

Aren’t these three different things? Do we have to have them all simultaneously to be considered kind?  The short answer is “no.”  Kindness is both more and less than this.  We don’t have to display a certain list of attributes in order to be kind.  Kindness can be as simple as responding courteously, or as complicated as taking the time to listen to another person and help them work through a difficult situation.  It can cost nothing financially, or it can cost a great deal.  It can take a few seconds, or years. Kindness is not a particular response, it is a particular mindset:  one of looking at the one person right in front of you, empathizing with them, and then trying to meet their needs. It means getting out of the self-centered default position that normally controls our brains (in other words, sin) and putting on the mind of Christ. As we are told in the book of Philippians: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” Philippians 2:3

Jesus models this for us.  He saw that the woman at the well needed understanding; Zachaeus needed friendship; the leper needed to be touched; Thomas needed to see for himself.  Many miracles in the Bible began with a simple act of kindness.

What does that mean for us?  Well, we can’t perform miracles.  We won’t be able to heal the sick – but we can visit and pray with them.  We won’t be able to feed 5000 hungry people – but we can offer a bag of snacks to the homeless man on the corner.  We can’t give the frustrated clerk at the grocery store a new job – but we can be patient and wish him a blessed day.  Kindness isn’t a talent that only some of us have.  Anyone can be kind.  It simply involves choosing to notice the people around us and doing what we can to alleviate their suffering. 

Kindness is a humble virtue. It won’t earn you any worldly rewards.  You may not see any results.  However, on the day of judgement, you will hear:

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”  And that will be enough.

For more posts about kindness see:

The Kindness Crown

A Kind Word

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story–Movie Review

Teaching Myself

This year at Christmas a friend of our daughter gave us a little sign as a gift — it says “Be Kind.” Then another friend wrote us a New Year’s letter in which she suggested that we all make 2022 the year of “being kind.” Maybe that’s a coincidence, or maybe it’s what I’ve learned to call a godcidence — something God is trying to tell me. At any rate, I’ve decided it’s a great idea and so this year I’m going to make a special effort to be kind.

I like to think of myself as a kind person already, and I guess in many cases I am. However, like everyone, I have my prickly points — the things that push my buttons, that cause me to react in ways that are grumpy, irritable and yes — unkind. Here are a few of them:

  1. If I don’t sleep well — which has become a rather frequent, “age-related” problem, I can become easily impatient with my family (and just about anyone else with whom I interact).
  2. I’m a generally impatient person. I don’t wait well, and I can get feisty with others who lack my concern about punctuality.
  3. I have high standards for customer service (having worked for years in a job that demanded interaction with others) and am prone to being grouchy with anyone who doesn’t meet my expectations in that regard.
  4. I have trouble being truly generous with others (isn’t this part of kindness?) because I tend to be a worrier and that makes me want to conserve my time, talents and money, in case I am in need (guess what, being unselfish is part of kindness, too).

I’m sure I can think of other situations at well, but this is a starter. I’m going to be aware of my failings and try to behave differently– more understanding, less critical. I’m going to pray to be changed. I’m going to try teaching myself, with the help of God, to have a better, kinder attitude. What about you? What will you work on teaching yourself this year?

For more posts about kindess see:

Dare to be Kind by Lizzie Velasquez–Book Review

A Kind Word

The Kindness Crown

A New Way of Seeing

In my Via de Cristo reunion group, one of the questions we ask ourselves each time we meet is “what was the most helpful Spiritual insight from your study?” This week I’ve been reading a book about spiritual formation, and I came across this idea which struck me in a profound way:

“A Filipino-American pastor told me that American society views most of the members of his congregation as ‘machine people.’ Such people are invisible to busy professionals, who view them as merely an extension of service machinery that performs the duties we need done. They are an extension of dish washing, dry cleaning, or hotel services. He challenged me to simply pay attention to these invisible ‘machine people’ that I, as he correctly predicted, encounter every day and yet overlook. He urged me, as an act of following Jesus to engage these people with eye contact, affirmations, and questions about their lives or well-being.” From Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered by James C. Wilhoit

How often do we take for granted the people who serve us as we go about our daily errands and chores? The clerk at the grocery store, the UPS delivery man, the librarian at the circulation desk. Sometimes a simple and heart felt expression of thanks or interest in them as fellow human beings will make a big difference to their attitude and their day. Then there are the homeless we pass by without a thought. They are our brothers and sisters as well. My husband and I have started passing out ‘goodie-bags’ with some food, socks, and personal care items. I’ve been blessed to begin really seeing these folks, and their gratitude touches my heart.

The author states that developing a new way of seeing people is the first step in loving them, and love is the greatest commandment. Even if we are called to do “big things” for God, we must begin by being kind and available to those we meet every day.

So, here’s my challenge to you (and myself) going forward. Put on your God-goggles and see like Jesus.

For more posts about kindness see:

A Kind Word

Dare to be Kind by Lizzie Velasquez–Book Review

Be Kind at Christmas

The Princess and the Three Knights by Karen Kingsbury–Book Review

This is a typical fairytale for children, dressed up with a bit of Christianity.

The king is in search of the perfect knight to marry his daughter. He must be not just courageous, strong, and loyal — he must also be kind and have a deep faith in God. Only this sort of man would be worthy of the Princess. After a variety of tests, the final three must perform one last feat — and the winner is not the bravest or the most accomplished, but the one who loves the Princess best and will always protect her.

The book begins with a quote from 1 Corinthians:

“Love is patient, love is ind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard are charming, and If you’re expectations for the story are not high, you may enjoy it and be able to begin a conversation about kindness with your children


For more books for children visit these posts:

I Can Only Imagine by Bart Millard — Book Review

Little Sweet Pea, God Loves You — Book Review

Gracie’s Garden by Lara Casey — Book Review

Make Somebody Happy!

It’s really not hard to make somebody happy — read this quote by Frederick Wm. Faber (1814-1863), a noted British theologian and hymnist. Then go out and spread some happiness today!

“The worst kinds of unhappiness, as well as the greatest amount of it, come from our conduct to each other. If our conduct, therefore, were under the control of kindness, it would be nearly the opposite of what it is, and so the state of the world would be almost reversed. We are for the most part unhappy, because the world is an unkind world. But the world is only unkind for lack of kindness in us units who compose it.”

For more about kindness see these posts:

A Kind Word

Dare to be Kind by Lizzie Velasquez–Book Review

Deep Kindness by Houston Kraft–Book Review

A Good Habit

I recently read a book about how our habits, spiritual and secular, influence us often unconsciously. In this quote, G. Wilkinson (1833-1907) a Bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Church, explains how to develop a the good habit of sympathy..

“Ask Him to increase your powers of sympathy; to give you more quickness and depth of sympathy, in little things as well as great. Opportunities of doing a kindness may bring sunshine into the whole day of some sick person. Think of the pleasure you might give to someone who is shut in, and has fewer pleasures than you have, by sharing with her some little comfort or enjoyment that you have learnt to look upon as a necessary of life, –the pleasant drive, the new book, flowers from the country, etc. Try to put yourself in another’s place. Ask ‘What should I like myself, if I were hardworked, or sick, or lonely?’ Cultivate the habit of sympathy.”

For more about our habits see:

The Habit of Honesty

Service — A Blessed Habit

The Helpfulness Habit

Words — What Does the Bible Say?

The Bible actually has quite a bit to say about our words. For example:

“Gracious words are a honeycomb,
    sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

“From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled;
    with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. Proverbs” 18:20

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken” Proverbs 25:11

Imagine that! Words are powerful — they can heal; they can satisfy; they have beauty. We don’t have to be rich, we can help and bless others with nothing more than our words. To do this, however, we must use words correctly. They should be kind, gracious and appropriate.

Think back over the past week or day. Isn’t it true that sometimes a simple phrase like “thank you”, “I love you” or “have a nice day” has lifted your spirit? Don’t we all like to hear the words, “good job” or “nice work”? What about “I’m so sorry”, “how can I help?” or ” I’ll pray for you”?

It doesn’t take much time or effort to use words that are caring and courteous. Why not view this as a spiritual discipline? If you make the effort, it will soon become a habit, and that habit will encourage others. As Frederick W. Faber((28 June 1814 — 26 September 1863), a hymn writer and theologian said:

With the help of grace, the habit of saying kind words is very quickly formed, and when once formed, it is not speedily lost.”

So, make time to think about your words. Use them well. You will be blessed and become a blessing to others.

For more about being kind see these posts:

The Kindness Crown

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story–Movie Review

Lovingkindness by William R. Miller–Book Review

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story–Movie Review

After reading a book by Lizzie Velasquez (Dare to be Kind by Lizzie Velasquez–Book Review), I decided to check out this documentary about her life from the local library. Lizzie has a rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight, and as a consequence of looking very different, she was shunned and stared at from an early age. When she was 17 she discovered a YouTube video calling her “the world’s ugliest woman.” Worse yet, many viewers of the clip posted hurtful comments like “kill it with fire” and “why didn’t her parents abort her?”

Lizzie’s father, an active Christian, counsels her to forgive and channel her energy into promoting positivity online. She starts her own podcast and becomes a motivational speaker whose TEDx talk is viewed by millions.

The film focuses heavily on her campaign to promote a federal anti-bullying bill, and her collaboration with Tina Meier, whose daughter hanged herself after a cyber-bullying incident, and congresswoman Linda Sanchez, who sponsored the bill.

As I said in my book review, I’m not sure I support all of Lizzie’s opinions. I would have to do more research on the anti-bullying bill — it sounds good, but how is bullying defined and who defines it? My fear is that “anti-bullying” could lead into the ability to punish or silence anyone who expressed negative ideas about your or your beliefs, interfering with free speech. It’s something that should be talked about and approached, but cautiously.

That being said, Lizzie is an inspiring person, and the world needs more people like her. This movie would be great to watch with older children or teens because they need to hear her messages:

  1. Be yourself
  2. Be positive
  3. Be kind
  4. People who are hurt you probably have hurtful things going on in their lives
  5. Set goals and focus on them– don’t be deterred by the negative comments of others

In fact, we all need to hear these things.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. Watch this movie with your family and friends, and support Lizzie by spreading kindness

For more movie reviews see:

Son of God — Movie Review

Selma — Movie Review

Entertaining Angels– Movie Review

A Kind Word

Did you know that you can change the world? A kind word or deed can make someone’s day. It can create a positive attitude in the one who gives, as well as the one who receives. It can be as simple as a smile, a heart-felt compliment, or even just “thank you.” It requires no special gift or training. Anyone can be kind. Find a way to be kind today. The life you change may be your own!

“It would seem as if very few of us give this power of kind words the consideration which is due to it. So great a power, such a facility in the exercise of it, such a frequency of opportunities for the application of it, and yet the world still is what it is, and we still are what we are. It seems incredible. Take life all through, its adversity as well as its prosperity, its sickness as well as its health, its loss of its rights as well as its enjoyment of them, and we shall find that no natural sweetness of temper, much less any acquired philosophical equanimity, is equal to the support of a uniform habit of kindness. Nevertheless, with the help of grace, the habit of saying kind words is quickly formed, and when once formed, it is not speedily lost. Sharpness, bitterness, sarcasm, acute observation, divination of motives, — all these things disappear when a man is earnestly conforming himself to the image of Christ Jesus. The very attempt to be like our dearest Lord is already a well-spring of sweetness within us, flowing with an easy grace over all who come within our reach.” Frederick Wm. Faber

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad.” Proverbs 12:25

For more quotes by Frederick Wm. Faber see:

Graceful Listening

Some Quotes on the Fruit of the Spirit

Dare to be Kind by Lizzie Velasquez–Book Review

Lizzie Velasquez has learned to grow through life’s challenges She was born with a rare genetic syndrome which makes it impossible for her to gain weight; but she is more than a person with a disorder. She is:

Dare to Be Kind: How Extraordinary Compassion Can Transform Our World
  • A motivational speaker
  • A Christian
  • A daughter and sister
  • A person with the gift of compassion
  • A dog lover
  • A friend
  • A college graduate
  • A anti-bullying activist
  • And so much more

Her message is that each of us is more than any one quality that may make us feel inferior or insecure. She says:

“Making the decision not to let anyone else define us and then choosing how to define ourselves and what we’re all about –these are essential steps in life ….And they have everything to do with moving forward on a path toward kindness.”

Although her appearance causes others to stare, and she has been cyber-bullied with a video describing her as the “world’s ugliest woman,” Lizzie remains a positive person. Connecting with and inspiring people is her passion, and her condition gives her a platform for doing that. She believes that::

“Those people who are fueled by hatred and anger to lash out against others, what if they had experienced more kindness, compassion, and acceptance in their own lives? In many cases, their outcomes would have been different.

If each of us does our part in spreading even small acts of kindness, there will be a ripple effect. She has some practical suggestions like giving compliments, smile, hold a door, tell those you meet to have a wonderful day, and so on. Let people know that you see them and value them. It can make a difference. We’re all responsible for creating a culture of kindness.

Finally Lizzie has learned to quell her doubts about the future because God in in control and His plan is bigger and better than anything we can imagine.

I don’t agree with all of Lizzie’s views, but I applaud many of her general premises: be kind; don’t judge others by their appearance; value your family and your past; pray and trust God, don’t be afraid to ask for help and be vulnerable.


There is also a documentary about Lizzie’s life, “A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Vasquez Story, which I plan to check out of the library and may review. Lizzie is also on YouTube and has a podcast.

For more posts on kindness see:

Deep Kindness by Houston Kraft–Book Review

A Quote on Kindness