- Dr. Gil Stieglitz
Exploring the Benefits of Kindness
But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23)
God the Holy Spirit wants to move in and through us to build our relationships in ways that are hard or impossible for us. He prompts us to let Him flow through us to meet needs and pursue a person; to focus on the positive instead of the negative in a situation; to bring order and harmony to a relationship; be willing to work for the long-term goal and treat people in a way that is better than they deserve - a pleasant helpfulness. Yes, this last one is the definition of kindness. The Greek word is chrestotes is most often translated "kindness." But most people don't know what kindness is. In order to understand it, one needs to look at two words in the New Testament mercy and grace. To receive mercy means to receive less than we deserve. To receive grace means that we receive far more than we deserve. The two words here in the fruit of the spirit, kindness and goodness, have this opposite quality. For a person to be kind means that we treat people with a pleasant helpfulness that is much more merciful than justice or fairness would demand. To be good means that we benefit people more than they deserve. Focusing on this idea of kindness, there will constantly be people in your life who do you wrong or treat you unfairly, and God will often prompt you to treat them with a pleasant helpfulness that they do not deserve.
I can think of many marriages that have been destroyed because one or both spouses treat each other with a level of venom that the other person's actions, mistakes, and offenses deserved. A great marriage cannot be built in this world on strict justice. A great marriage demands kindness. Strict justice also destroys a family. If parents do not offer more encouragement than their children deserve, then the children will be crippled in reaching their full potential and enjoying their family. If children demand that their parents be perfect in behavior and parenting skills, then rebellion, distrust, and hatred will inevitably follow. Kindness is required. To have good healthy relationships means that one or both people in a relationship practice kindness and do not require strict accounting for every wrong inflicted. 1 Corinthians 13 says that love does not take into account a wrong suffered... bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I get the benefit of a wonderful marriage because my wife is kind. She does not treat me as I deserve. She offers a pleasant helpfulness towards me. Yes, there are times when she corrects me and requests that I apologize, but the general tenor of her actions towards me are pleasant helpfulness that I do not deserve but am all too glad to accept. My children know that their father is not perfect. They know that I love them and am doing the best I can to raise them right and treat them fairly. They extend to me a pleasant helpfulness - a kindness, and our relationship flourishes because of it. I extend to them kindness - a pleasant helpfulness that allows them to make mistakes, to develop, to choose a path different than mine, to be less than perfect and still receive my love, encouragement, and overwhelming support. Our relationship is strong and delightful because of the kindness they extend to me in not remembering the times when I got angry or made a bad decision or failed to be perfect. Our relationship is strong and delightful because I offer them kindness to not remember all that they said when they were mad at me, or the times I was right and they were wrong. Relationships need kindness or they will die.
Yes, there are people who will take advantage of our kindness, and at times God does not suggest that kindness is what that relationship needs. He may prompt us to offer some tough love to the selfish taker, but kindness is so often needed if a relationship is to survive. This is true of the relationships at work, at church, in the neighborhood, and all over our lives. Without the milk of kindness, we won't have any relationships - only transactions.
There have been times when I have been really upset at my wife over this or that. I have wanted to give her a piece of my mind about how much her actions or inactions hurt me or changed my plans. I can remember at times trying to pray about these offenses and asking God to help me make it clear that I was not going to put up with this kind of behavior. Each time God prompted me to be kind. He prompted me to treat her in a way that she clearly did not deserve. I remember one time I was so upset and was just waiting for her to come home to unload my wounds and God suggested that I go to the store and get her a gift at a store she liked. I was aghast at the idea and began arguing with God. That will not teach her the right lesson! But God just kept on prompting until I took the girls and we went to the store and bought mom a gift and had it wrapped. We all got so excited about mom seeing the gift and opening it. We put it right in the path when she came into the house. It was the most amazing thing that I became more excited about how encouraged she would be with the gift than making my point. God's prompting of kindness did more to improve the atmosphere in my marriage that night than a million words of hurt, anger, or frustration ever would.
God will often suggest that you offer pleasant helpfulness to someone who doesn't deserve it so that you can build a better relationship. Listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit; they lead to a much better life than the ideas that you come up with on your own.
I look forward to interacting with you during your spiritual journey. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how God is working in and through your life. Your greatest life is just ahead.
In His service,
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