My friend Dave, who has a counseling ministry, shared an unforgettable phrase with me that he often says to married couples who are struggling: “Compatibility is a given, but kindness is a choice.”
Compatibility is a given, but kindness is a choice.
Were we ever really compatible?
In the throes of conflict and frustration couples often wonder if they are, or ever were, compatible with each other. Dave explains that there have always been multiple connection points of attraction and compatibility. Otherwise, they would never have gotten married!
The disconnect they are experiencing now is not from some innate lack of compatibility but is the result of the cumulative omission of kindness to each other.
Sharp edges now characterize their interactions. The daily needs of each other are routinely overlooked. Inconveniences are greeted with barbs of complaint and criticism. Hand grenades of anger leave shrapnel that remains unhealed. These partners who had vowed to love each other in good times and in bad have lost sight of each other in the daily fog of selfishness.
The lack of basic kindness has deadened a once-vibrant relationship and obscured the joy they once found in the uniqueness of the other.
Kindness in our World
If this happens in marriage, the most intimate of all human relationships, how much more prevalent is the loss of kindness as we interact with others in our world: our siblings, parents, friends, and work associates? How kind am I to other members of the body of Christ?
Kindness (specifically “brotherly kindness”) is to be the aroma of the living church.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:9-10
We are kind - or not.
Kindness is never theoretical. We either give it, or we don’t. We choose to expend our understanding, patience, and forbearance, or we hoard our own convenience, opinion, and isolation. Kindness is a one-way street leading away from my own desire to have it my way. It’s essential for the body of Christ because without kindness we are just an organization held together by ideas. With kindness we become a true family knit together by practical expressions of love, with a history of differences that did not divide but strengthened us.
Kindness must thrive with the people we know, odd and opinionated as they are. It is choosing to understand, going the extra mile, granting the benefit of the doubt. And then, kindness climbs over obstacles of opinion, irritation or failings, and loves the person anyway! The living church needs this beautiful grace now more than ever. Emerging from lockdowns, mandates, conflicting information, and disparate approaches to safety, we now have the opportunity to regather.
Let kindness show the way!
So, here are some best practices for kindness to permeate our atmosphere:
- Listen and ask: examine your own assumptions about the issue or the person
- Get original sources: go to the source, not the opinion, gossip, or editorial
- Silence: if you don’t know, don’t speak
- Defend: have a pre-set desire not to see the worst, or believe the latest report, about another person
- Move toward: Kindness doesn’t just roll into place. It needs to be sent, given, delivered.
- Affirm: a few well-chosen words can make a person’s day
The Kindness Challenge
Not long ago I challenged the church to read The Kindness Challenge, by Shaunte Feldhahn. The brief summary of its content is so practical and doable:
- Nix the negative
- Practice praise
- Carry out kindness
So, I want to challenge you again to take the Kindness Challenge.
When you sign up, for 30 days you will receive daily emails giving you prompts about how you can develop the muscle of kindness by sustaining some new habits. This can transform any relationship, from the boardroom, the locker room, the kitchen, or the living room.
If the living church needs this grace, just imagine how our hurting, bruised world needs the Christian witness that shines through kindness! Jesus said they will glorify God when they see the good works done in love by the body of Christ. Step up to the Kindness Challenge, and build your own kindness quotient for the Lord’s sake.