Were you ever bullied on the playground? Or called names by the neighbor kid? Do you have an annoying co-worker? A friend who pushes your buttons?
When I was a kid, my mom would admonish me, "Josh, kill them with kindness."
The motive behind this advice may sound harsh, but I believe it tells us something about the power of kindness. In Romans 2:4, the apostle Paul puts it this way: "God's kindness leads you toward repentance." My mom and the apostle Paul knew the same biblical truth: Kindness has the power to soften hearts.
The Greek root for kindness, as used in the New Testament, means uprightness or benevolence and describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing our patience. Kindness can be quite unnatural, though. When we have been hurt or offended, we tend to react in anger or bitterness. But kindness leads us to do just the opposite — to respond with love and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).
Kindness is when your child, though treated badly by a friend, shares gummy bears with his friend at snack time. Kindness is when you, though frustrated by your child's poor choices, choose not to react in anger. It's an unnatural act that comes supernaturally through the Holy Spirit.
But kindness by itself is insufficient. Paul describes kindness as a part of the fruit of the Spirit, which also includes love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). He speaks about the fruit of the Spirit, however, not as a list of isolated character traits, but as one thing.
It's especially important for kindness to be accompanied by goodness. That's because kindness without goodness can become tolerant of sin — just as goodness without kindness can be harsh and legalistic. We show the fruit of the Spirit only as we develop these qualities together.
Children of all ages can begin to understand kindness from a biblical perspective. The following age-specific activities and discussions will help your child explore this important and relevant topic.
—Dr. Joshua Straub
- Kindness has the power to soften people's hearts.
- Kindness is the ability to act for the welfare of those who test our patience.
- To be genuine, kindness must be accompanied by the rest of the fruit of the Spirit.
Family Memory Verse
"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy."
For a more in-depth look at kindness, read these Bible passages:
- Matthew 5:43-45
- Romans 11:22
- Ephesians 2:6-7
- Colossians 3:12
Use this activity to help your children understand that they can "clothe" themselves with kindness (Colossians 3:12) by choosing to be kind to others.
Tell your children you're having a party, and they get to choose their outfits. Lay out different styles of dress-up clothes and accessories — Mom's costume jewelry and Dad's outdated ties work great. Include the same number of hats as there are children dressing up. Encourage each child to choose a special hat in order to have a special job at the party.
Set the table with a snack, and ask your children to join you. Once everyone is seated, ask each person wearing a hat to do something kind: serve a snack to his siblings before serving himself, allow his sister to use his favorite cup, and pass out napkins to everyone.
Discuss with your children that Jesus wants us to "put on" kindness every morning. Remind them that they chose to put on a special hat for the party, and each person wearing a hat did something kind. Kindness is something we choose. Talk about the ways each person showed kindness at the party.
Use this activity to help your child understand how our acts of kindness can reflect the kindness of God. You'll need a coin, white paper and several crayons in bright colors, as well as one black crayon.
Draw an outline of a person on the paper. Then, with your child, fill in that shape with bright splashes of color. While you are coloring, explain that God designed us to show His love and kindness to those around us. Our actions demonstrate His kindness to others.
Now give your child a black crayon and have him add black splotches over the bright colors. Explain that when we don't treat others with kindness, our lives no longer show God's character. Discuss a few situations in which people may act unkind.
Next, use the coin to lightly scratch away the black patches. Tell your child that as we are kind to others, the kindness of God begins to shine through. If we continue to show kindness, people will see a clearer picture of God’s character. Kindness not only blesses others through our actions but also helps people see the ultimate Creator of that kindness.
Help your tweens treat others with kindness, even when it's difficult. Ask your kids if they've ever heard the phrase “Kill them with kindness." Talk about how this phrase means to wear down a grouchy person by showing him kindness until he can no longer deny being moved by the kind treatment.
Tell your tweens you've designated one day this week as Kindness Day. The goal will be to show kindness to others who are in a bad mood or who have a lousy attitude.
As they reach out to people with kindness, have them keep track by writing down the rude behavior they encountered and how they responded. Have them sign their name and place each slip of paper in a bowl. Parents are encouraged to participate as well.
After dinner each family member can pull out a piece of paper and read it. Go around the table until all the papers are read. When you've finished, pray for the people who gave you the opportunity to be kind today.
Time With Your Teen
When you and I were teenagers, hurtful comments were made in person. But times have changed. Today, your teen is just a few seconds and a few keystrokes away from being the recipient, or the catalyst, of unkind texts or online posts. Technology offers a new and powerful channel for teens to unleash unkindness on others.
A recent blog post by Canadian author Carey Nieuwhof inspired me. Carey mused that, in his own parenting experience, margin translates to kindness. The more time and energy he has remaining at the end of the day, the more kind he is to his children.
Like us, our teens are likely feeling short on time, sleep and emotional energy. The less margin they have, the less likely they are to be kind. The lower their reserves, the more likely they are to text, post or tweet an unkind comment they will later regret.
Odds are good that you've done the same. Share with your teen about an unkind message you wish you hadn't sent. Ask if he can think of a time when he's sent something he wished he hadn't sent, and ask how he felt afterward. Similarly, describe a text or post that made your day, and see if your teen can do the same. Together, commit to sending kind, positive and encouraging messages for the rest of the month. Demonstrate what it looks like to be "clothed in kindness" (Colossians 3:12) by sending your child a message letting him know how grateful you are that God has allowed you to be his parent.