Think about the people you admire the most. They’re likely the kindest people you know. In our divisive world where people are too often mean to each other, kindness stands out. Being kind is a simple yet significant choice you can make in any situation. It doesn’t take much effort to choose kind words and actions, but when you do, God’s love will flow powerfully through you to other people. In the process, you’ll experience wonder.
As a girl, I loved visiting my Grandma Lena’s house because of the kindness I experienced there with her. Grandma was known for her kindness – so much so, that a plaque at the railroad museum she founded memorializes her as “a kind-hearted woman”. One day, Grandma introduced me to Marilyn, a newspaper reporter who was writing stories on the museum. Marilyn had become a friend of Grandma’s while covering the stories, so after they were published, she kept visiting Grandma. I don’t recall exactly what I talked with them both about that day, but I do recall that Marilyn exuded kindness just like Grandma did. They made time to listen – really listen – to my thoughts and feelings. I knew I could count on them to care. Marilyn became my friend as well as Grandma’s, and although Grandma has passed away, Marilyn continues to spread kindness. In Wake Up to Wonder, I wrote about her longtime habit of sending cards to people who need encouragement. I learned from kind people like Grandma and Marilyn that true kindness is much more than a random act every now and then. Kindness is a character trait that distinguishes a lifestyle of love. Now, I try to choose kindness with my words and actions every day, and I encourage others to do so through well-being campaigns like Mason Chooses Kindness.
Who showed you kindness when you were growing up? How did experiencing that kindness help you notice more of God’s wondrous work in your life?
Research I explain in Wake Up to Wonder shows that choosing kindness can help us notice the wonder around us by helping us focus more. Experiencing wonder and feeling awe can also inspire us to be kind, additional research in the book shows. So, kindness and wonder are connected in a beautiful cycle, in which they lead to each other.
Our world needs your kindness! Here’s how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to become more kind, and discover wonder in the process:
Do kind deeds. Ask God to give you compassion for others, and to show you specific ways that he would like you to extend kindness to people you regularly encounter (such as friends, colleagues, and family members) as well as people you meet just once. Devise a plan for performing regular acts of kindness for each of the people you know, taking into account their needs and desires. You may plan to regularly visit some elderly family members, for instance, and do household chores and yard work for them while you’re there. Or, you may plan to meet weekly with a friend or coworker who’s going through a crisis, and be ready to listen and offer encouragement. Pray to be ready to offer kindness to people you don’t know when opportunities arise. Get your heart ready to respond when God brings people in need across your path – from an injured person in need of first aid, to a homeless person in need of a meal. While there are many valuable ways to serve, only some are the best match for you at any given time. So, ask God how you can best invest your limited time and energy into service that will have most positive impact on others.
Speak kind words that give life to others. Make a habit of saying “thank you” in conversations whenever people help you out. Try to notice when people say or do something well, and compliment them on what you notice. Encourage people who are sad or upset by speaking kind words that are appropriate for their circumstances and that reflect the reality of God’s love for them. Rejoice with people who are celebrating by speaking kind words that let them know you’re happy for them. Use kind words to help people solve problems when they ask you for advice. You can lead them kindly through the process of figuring out what’s best by asking them questions designed to get them to think about creative solutions on their own. Finally, fight injustice with kindness by standing for people who are being mistreated. When you hear someone speaking harsh words either to someone else (such as harsh conversations) or about someone else (such as gossip), you can respond with kindness to right the wrong.
Be kind to the people who have hurt you by forgiving them, with God’s help. Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving them; you likely never will feel like it. Instead, decide to obey God’s command to forgive others, and trust that as you make that choice, God will help you through the process. Remember that God has forgiven you for many sins. Let your gratitude motivate you to forgive others, which will let them experience profound kindness at work.
What decisions can you make today that spread kindness?