By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
Just like you can catch more flies with honey, you can change more hearts with kindness. I once watched a video that showed different people in a hospital lobby. As they walked in and out of the elevator and greeted each other with a smile, a caption would come up and reveal to the viewer the hidden struggle in their hearts. One had just received a cancer diagnosis; one had just lost a child. One after the other, they each carried a burden invisible to others’ eyes. The message of the video was, “You never know what someone is going through. Be kind.” Being kind is not always easy but it is always right. But the kindness I am speaking about is much more than simply “being nice”; it is one of the attributes of the Spirit of God, “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Cor 13:4).
I find it easier to be kind when I either have a pretty good idea of what someone is going through because I’ve gone through something similar, or when I have no idea at all of what they are going through and allow myself to give them the “benefit of the doubt”. I find it hardest to be kind when I know “some” of what they are going through. When I know just enough to form an opinion, but not enough to truly empathize. And if I think their choices will end up negatively affecting me, then I find it even harder to be kind. The choices of others affect us. “If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy” (1 Cor 12:26). It can be unnerving when we see others taking actions that might negatively affect us, yet we are still called to be kind.
Kindness is intimately connected to mercy. You can’t have kindness without mercy, and you can’t have mercy without love. These actions come from the love of God and move towards love of neighbor, fulfilling then the law of love. So, kindness is not merely being nice for our own benefit, or to avoid conflict, but it is necessarily focused on the other. It is sharing with another the very love of God. A truly kind gesture or word has the power to change another’s life, to be a light shining in the dark. It is through our own prayer that this light will shine. As we take the time to nurture our relationship with God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, His fruit will grow in us. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). It is then we will have the grace to be truly kind.