I haven’t been kind lately.
In the last two days, I managed to offend three people. I certainly wasn’t trying to, but my actions or words were not what others wanted, expected, or desired. I ruffled feathers because I wasn’t agreeable. I wasn’t nice. Or kind.
Kindness, one of the fruits of the Spirit, is meeting real needs in God’s way. Strong’s Concordance defines it as Spirit-produced goodness which meets the need and avoids human harshness (cruelty).
Ah…so that’s where I went wrong. The human harshness thing.
While I may have tried—in my humanness—to be kind, or even agreeably nice, I obviously failed. The other person in each of the three situations was presumably hurt in some way by something I said, the way I phrased it, or the fact that I didn’t do what they thought I should do.
Spiritual kindness would have seen beyond my emotions or my need to be validated. Spiritual kindness would have avoided any harsh words or thinking about righting what I considered to be a wrong. Spiritual kindness would have acquiesced generously, considerately, thoughtfully, and without cruelty.
Spiritual kindness, the kindness that is fruit, is impossible on my own. It goes against everything in my sinful nature—retribution, fits of rage, hatred.
These are the things I’d prefer to hold on to.
Had I asked God what He thought or how I should respond before I confronted, challenged, or responded to any of the people I’d offended?
Had I been walking in love, joy, peace, or patience prior to these altercations?
I’ve felt distant from God, instead struggling with stress, anger, sadness, and disappointment. In each of the circumstances, I felt justified. I was wronged. I was hurt. I was being imposed upon.
In the heat of the moment, when emotions are high, our human tendency is not to stop and look at our WWJD wristband and ask, “How can I extend the fruit of your Spirit now, Lord?”
Rather, when our backs are against the wall and we find ourselves accused of being nasty, irresponsible, or selfish, our response is typically one of justifying our position and defending our actions.
Accusations fly with blame on the wings, desperately seeking a place to land and nest.
Intentional spiritual kindness is a practiced art, one I have yet to master. And I never will if I keep trying in my humanness.
The fruit of the Spirit is a byproduct of living a life in step with the Spirit. And all the fruit, as I’ve said before, is connected.
Storing up the love of God, the joy we find in knowing Him, the peace that comes from practiced prayer, and the patience only Jesus can offer helps to build our spiritual character. And definitely contributes to kindness.
Even when we do extend the fruit of the Spirit to others, there is no guarantee they’ll accept it. If I say or do something in the spirit of that kindness, the other person is still responsible for how they interpret and receive that message.
If they choose to be offended, that’s their prerogative. We cannot assume that everyone is walking in the same vineyard or orchard.
Sometimes we need to remember to be kind to ourselves by setting boundaries. Sometimes kindness means saying no, upsetting the tidy agendas of others.
Sometimes it challenges and confronts, which can cause relationship rifts. But sometimes, it’s necessary.
While I may or may not have extended the fruit of kindness to those three people, in all fairness, that fruit is Spirit-produced goodness.
Something that comes from God, a generous consideration that can only be produced in me by my Creator. It’s not something I can conjure up and then feel bad about when I fail.
So instead of crawling in a hole and declaring that I am cruel and self-centered and heartless, that I’ll never master being kind, that I am a horrible excuse for a human being, I can breathe easily in the Sonshine, knowing that God extends the same kindness to me that He asks me to exhibit to others.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
Mary Dolan Flaherty is a quirky gal who loves to encourage people and make them laugh. She writes and speaks with self-deprecating humor and transparency, saying what most people think but won’t admit. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, whom she affectionately calls Hubbles, and has two grown children and two grand-dogs. Mary enjoys hiking, theatre, music, gardening, and traveling and can be found blogging at SonRiseInsights.com .