A part of simple kindness is loving people more than they deserve.’ Joseph Joubert.
When we think of kindness, usually we picture someone being generous and considerate to others without being asked or feeling obligated, and this is what’s at the heart of being kind. As Gary Chapman writes in his book Love as a Way of Life, kindness means ‘serving someone else (recognising their need) even if it involves sacrifice’. Kindness is often simple – it may only take a moment – but it is a deliberate act of showing someone they are valued and that they do matter.
There are many articles written about how modern society has lost the art of being kind, and to an extent this is true in that we are generally more self-focused and more impatient when it comes to other people’s needs. Often we have so many demands on our time, skills and emotions that the very thought of sacrificing anything for others is draining. And yet, the essence of kindness, both simple and beautiful, is that it rewards the giver as much as the receiver. It improves relationships. It reminds us of the simple pleasures of life. It brings our troubles back into perspective. It makes a difference in people’s lives, and renews our happiness. It refills us, and suddenly the things we sacrificed to give it (whether that be time, money, resources or something else) was worth giving up just to see the smile on their face, their renewed hope. And, it heals wounds and rebuilds bridges, often without a word being spoken. We will always need kindness.
Sometimes kindness is about being there for someone when they least expect it. It may be about encouraging them when they are down, doing something for them when they are overwhelmed, or just being concerned for another even when they don’t deserve it. Everyone needs to and likes to know that someone out there is watching out for them, cares about them, and values them as a person. Kindness in all its forms answers these with a quiet but firm ‘yes’: ‘you’re not alone’, ‘I care enough about you to do this’. There is something about kindness that touches people on both sides. When we are a part of it, or even when we hear about it, it revives our faith in humanity.
Unfortunately, we can’t always guarantee that people will respond positively to our kindness – they may reject it or react negatively, or simply be ungracious. That is their choice, but kindness is always worth it and never wasted. This doesn’t mean we need to risk serious hurt/harm in order to be kind – we must always have boundaries in place – but as Gary Chapman goes on to say, ‘without acts of kindness, the world becomes a dark and lonely prison for each of us, [but] with it we can help one another survive.’ Kindness may help to soften others, but even if it doesn’t, it helps us to become better people and less self-focused.
Kindness can be about meeting someone’s need for support, doing something practical for them, giving them encouragement, or just letting them know that we’re here. It may mean mowing someone’s lawn if they’re incapable of doing it themselves. It may mean passing on a small present just to show your appreciation, organising transport for someone who finds it difficult or who needs it most, or saying a kind word to someone who is struggling. It could be someone you know well, or a complete stranger. It could be about rallying around someone in a crisis, or simply brightening someone’s day. Whatever form it may take, kindness must not be used to manipulate another, to demand something back, or to try and earn love, but to simply bless.