When I was pregnant with my daughter, Westside was brand new. My little family and I would get there super early on Sundays so my husband could get the music stuff set up and do the sound check before the congregants started arriving. Those were challenging mornings for me, and Kara started asking if I would like to come have coffee at her house after dropping Aaron and Von off at church. That was wonderful for my pregnant self! Lounging in her comfy living room, watching Story model her latest fashion ensemble, hearing Lake laugh as he played in the other room. I loved that time with Kara.
Anyway, one day Kara mentioned her book on kindness, on loving big. As Kara chatted about her passion for parenting with kindness, I was intrigued—the fall before, I was part of a women’s group and one of the lessons was on kindness. I can’t even tell you about any of the other lessons—it was the one on kindness that spoke to me.
You see, I had always equated kindness with niceness. If you held the door open for the person behind you just to be nice, I thought you were being kind. If you paid for the coffee of the soldier in line at the coffee shop, I thought you were being nice. If you spent your morning shoveling the snowy walks for your neighbors, I thought you were being ridiculously nice in a way that I would never be nice. What I learned is that kindness is different—it’s a part of our new identity as Christians, a Fruit of the Spirit. Kindness involves sacrifice, putting someone else above yourself. Gary Chapman explains: “Kindness means noticing someone else and recognizing his/her needs. It means seeing the value in every person we meet. And, like every trait of a loving person, kindness can be much simpler and more powerful than we realize."
As I reflected on these truths that were new to my heart, I realized, first of all, that I never read anything in the Bible about being nice—it was all about kindness. And there is a lot in there about being kind! And then I realized that acts of kindness can make a huge difference. And the absence of kindness can make a huge difference, too. In December, Von had pneumonia. We didn’t know it yet, and I had him and the baby out shopping when Von had a horrible coughing fit. He coughed so much he threw up everywhere. His face was drained of color and he was weak, and I was terrified. The store owner came over and chided me. She did not express concern about my sick child but shamed me into getting out of her store as quickly as possible. Oh, how a word or act of kindness would have comforted and helped me in that moment! (Obviously I have no idea what was going on with that woman and I don’t hold a grudge—I simply share the story to point out how kindness could have made a big difference in the heat of the moment.)
On the flip side, I was sick recently, confined to bed. A friend found out. A friend who was 7 months pregnant, had 3 kids under 5, and lived 30 minutes away. She made a delicious dinner for us, enough for two meals, sacrificing her time and precious energy to cook and deliver. What a big deal that was for me and my family!
So when Kara started talking about kindness, my ears perked up. It made sense to me—why I never heard her yell at her children, why she had an open-door policy in their home, how she loved to reach out to people in her neighborhood. The list goes on for ways I immediately recognized kindness in her life. I became her secret student watching her interactions with others, taking note on how she was kind. If I had written everything down, I could have filled books!
The hardest part about all of this for me is the practical side, specifically, parenting with kindness. Which is why Kara’s book has been perfect for me. It’s led me to study Scripture about kindness and seek out women to encourage me in this journey. I wrestle with questions like, How do I respond to a disobedient child without an angry tone so they know they have done something wrong? And How do I explain how serious it is when one of my children does something potentially harmful with kindness instead of ugly anger? What do those kinds of things look like in real life?
I am still learning. I feel like I’m in the baby stages of understanding kindness, but I have learned some things: Anger does not beget heart change; it begets shame. Yelling does not beget understanding; it begets hurt. Harsh words do not beget love; they beget humiliation. Intimidation does not beget kindness; it begets fear. Only kindness begets kindness; kindness begets love.
I’ve already seen a return on my investment; as I trust God to help me respond to my rebellious children in kindness and love instead of fear and anger, these young hearts are learning that kindness is always right and they treat each other with kindness. What a joy for my mama’s heart!
When has kindness made a difference in your life? Do you struggle to show kindness to others? To your children and loved ones? Who around you could use a few words of kindness or maybe a big act of kindness? Do you trust God to help you respond to others in kindness instead of defensiveness, anger, etc.? What would it look like for you to be kind to someone who might feel overlooked and unseen? How have you seen God’s kindness in your own life?