The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Is it difficult to be kind? I would say that the answer is both “yes” and “no.” It is not difficult to show kindness. There are many small acts of kindness that cost neither time nor money but make a big difference for those who are recipients of these acts.
It is, however, difficult to show kindness when you are around people who are unkind. And because so many people are so unkind, there is a tendency to go with the “crowd,” and it’s unkindness.
Today’s Scripture verses from Ephesians call on us to stop being unkind – to put aside bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice – and to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving towards one another. If we expect kindness and mercy from God, then we should offer the same kindness and mercy towards one another. If we are habitually unkind with our words and sentiments, should we still expect kindness from God?
As with all the Fruit of the Spirit, kindness is a choice. And kindness starts with a choice to build a framework in relationships where the desire for all parties is to not hurt one another. It is easier to be kind when you set a goal not to hurt other people, including people that you love. If we ground a relationship in the words “I don’t want to hurt you and I don’t want you to hurt me,” and we work towards that end, you’ll see how easy it is to maintain kindness while still freely disagreeing. Because as we wrote earlier, one can still be kind but firm. One can constructively criticize and still be kind about it.
If we collectively made a statement that “we will strive to not participate in acts of unkindness but will instead only strive to say kind words,” then we could turn the tide on unkindness in the world. Certainly, if we work as individuals to safeguard our relationships from unkindness and instead reach for kindness, indeed the church and our world can have a bright future.
So check yourself. Think before you speak. Ask yourself if what you are about to say can be construed as unkind or unchristian. And if the answer is yes it would be unkind or unchristian, give some careful thought before you speak, take a step back, and say what you want to say in a kind way, even if it is a corrective comment.
There is a difference between perception and reality. Reality is what is and perception is what people think is. Many times we think a comment we are about to make is acceptable. Sometimes, however, what we really think is okay is perceived as offensive. And what we think is a kind comment might be taken as an unkind comment. This is why we need to pray constantly so that our reality lines up with another’s perception of reality.
Lord, thank You for the gift of this day. Help me to extend kindness to people and to refrain from saying things that are unkind. Please surround me with people who will not only treat me with kindness but people who can teach me how to be even more kind to those around me. Amen.
Strive to refrain from saying anything unkind to or about anyone. Rather, go out of your way to extend compliments and make gestures of kindness to people today!
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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