I’ve been thinking about kindness lately—how there’s not much of it, how I could show it better. I’ve also been wondering how many of the nice things I do are out of obligation and not sincerity. The answer? Well, it’s a tad embarrassing; let’s just say there’s still some growing up to do.
Someone asked recently about the kindest act ever done for me. There’ve been several, but one stands out because it was the shock of my young career. I was a rookie high school teacher pretending to know what I was doing. One class in particular was, well, just plain horrible. Every day during lunch break I’d dread the afternoon, sure that my next group of students would do me in.
I must have looked especially pitiful one day because just as class started, Mr. Inkel, a seasoned guidance counselor, came to my door. “I’ll teach your students today,” he said. “You need a break. I’ve placed a chair for you outside on a patch of grass. It’s pointed toward the sun. Enjoy the fresh air, and I’ll see you in an hour.”
I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. This man saw my need, determined how to meet it, then became personally (and unnecessarily) involved. Who does this? Who moves past a brief observation of “poor girl, she’s struggling” and takes action—an inconvenient sacrifice of time and energy—all for a casual acquaintance? Mr. Inkel did. Pure, humbling kindness.
This memory has resurfaced lately, challenging my own treatment of others. Am I nice? Am I kind? Do I pursue sincere, warmhearted gestures, even when the cost is costly? Sometimes.
Sadly, though, my motive for kindness isn’t always genuine. I sometimes do good things for unsavory reasons:
- Because it’s socially expected.
- Because it makes me look good.
- Because it makes me feel needed.
- Because Christians are supposed to.
But a new kind of thought occurred to me today: “Doing nice things doesn’t make me like Jesus. Only Jesus makes me like Jesus.”
Thankfully, He’s the sure way to real kindness! Colossians 3 is now fueling my prayer as Christ refocuses my heart: “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience….And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all in perfect unity” (12-14).
Now that’s a request our Lord will answer. He’ll give us sincerity. He’ll show us opportunity. And kindness will surface at just the right time, like an unexpected chair in a patch of green grass, pointed toward the Son.
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