Human Kindness Essential for Happiness
A CROWD of people was waiting for a subway train. Among them were two individuals apparently having opposite ideals. One was a well-dressed businessman who seemed to represent the “Establishment.” The other was a young woman who, by her attire, appeared to be a rebel against the “Establishment.” Yet, these two had something in common. This became apparent when an obviously inebriated man staggered to the car door. Somehow he made a misstep so that one leg slipped into the small space between the car and the platform. Surely, he would have had his leg severed at the hip had it not been for the quick action of the businessman and the young woman.
What did these two have in common? Philanthropy—love for fellowman, human kindness. But how far-reaching is this love? Well, in this case, the two persons helped the drunken man to a seat, made sure that he was not injured, and then went their respective ways. They did what they could to care for the man’s need on that occasion. They were acting, in this case, as humans were created to act.
In Biblical Greek, “human kindness” has reference to such a form of love or concern for mankind; it is the doing of little things to make life enjoyable, the showing of hospitality in caring for human needs and comforts. (Acts 27:3; 28:2) An individual expressing human kindness is interested in the well-being of another, often without the personal attachment and involvement that other senses of love convey. For the businessman and the young woman, involvement in the life of the unfortunate drunkard ended when he was safely out of danger.
APPLIED IN EVERYDAY LIVING
Human kindness is essential in the life of a married couple. They may express romantic love for each other and care for all their responsibilities. Yet, their relationship can become very disappointing if they do not display human kindness toward each other. Spontaneously doing little things to make the other person more comfortable and happy—those little things they were quick to do during courtship—how important these acts of human kindness are! David and Jonathan had affection for each other as close friends. Husbands and wives should have this kind of close friendship.—1 Sam. 18:1, 3; 2 Sam. 1:26.
A wife needs the security of feeling that she is her husband’s closest companion, the one he would rather be with than any other person. If human kindness and close friendship are lacking, the wife begins to feel neglected. ‘He doesn’t talk to me,’ she may say, or ‘He is more interested in the duties of his profession or business than he is in me.’ And the husband may feel that his wife is making too great a demand on his time and does not appreciate the importance of his other responsibilities. Gradually the other features of love become strained. Problems crop up as a result. However, the problems are sometimes solved by the couple’s starting their “courtship” all over again and by their performing little acts of kindness toward each other.
IN THE CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION
Christians are commanded to show kindness to their brothers in the faith. (Jas. 2:14-17) In the first century, when famine and persecution came upon the Christians in Judea, those in other lands sent a generous contribution for their relief—an act of human kindness.—Acts 11:28-30; 12:1-5; 2 Cor. 9:1-5.
An example for elders was the apostle Paul, who went far beyond merely preaching the “good news” to those who listened to him. This was an act of love, but Paul showed tender affection and human kindness in addition. He said to some whom he had taught: “We became gentle in the midst of you, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, having a tender affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the good news of God [which God had commanded them to do], but also our own souls [an expression of tender affection, brotherly love], because you became beloved to us.”—1 Thess. 2:7, 8.
Paul was willing to go out of his way for his Christian brothers and to give of himself. Elders in the Christian congregation today find by experience that the brothers’ need for attention and care seldom comes at a convenient time. For example, a brother may approach an elder after a meeting and say: ‘I would like to talk to you about a matter, when you have time.’ Human kindness to the brother would dictate that, with few exceptions, now is the time. The problem may be serious—at least to the brother. It may have taken a great deal of courage to approach the elder. If the elder delays until it is convenient to himself, he may find that the brother has changed his mind and may not want to talk about the matter. Why? He may have lost his courage. Or he may already have made a decision and now considers it too late for discussion. He may even have become bitter because the elder did not come to his aid when needed.
Human kindness has its place in other situations involving the personal needs of the congregation’s members. A sister may complain to an elder that the air-conditioning unit in the meeting place is set too cold for her comfort. A brother who is hard of hearing may complain of not being able to hear. Are they to be considered “complainers”? Should the elder reason that it is impossible to please everyone and that if the majority is satisfied he has done enough? Not if he has the interest of such brothers at heart. The Bible proverb states: “As for anyone stopping up his ear from the complaining cry of the lowly one, he himself also will call and not be answered.” (Prov. 21:13) The kind reaction is to consider each “complaint” and exhaust all reasonable possibilities to make everyone comfortable and happy.
Jesus taught this principle in his illustration of the shepherd. He asked: “What man of you with a hundred sheep, on losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine behind in the wilderness and go for the lost one until he finds it? And when he has found it he puts it upon his shoulders and rejoices.” Jesus was emphasizing the importance of giving individual, special attention to each member of the flock.—Luke 15:4-7.
THE GOOD SAMARITAN
One of the most impressive illustrations Jesus used to emphasize human kindness was that of the good Samaritan. When the Samaritan found an injured man on the road, “he was moved with pity.” So what did he do? “He approached him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine upon them. Then he mounted him upon his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii [coins], gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend besides this, I will repay you when I come back here.’” Christ Jesus used this illustration to impress on those who felt that they were righteous that more is required to please God than the traditional duties of being “good” and keeping the Law.—Luke 10:29-37.
APOSTLE SHOWN HUMAN KINDNESS BY A NON-CHRISTIAN
Another situation worthy of consideration is when the apostle Paul was a prisoner being transported to Rome. Acts 27:3 describes the human kindness and compassion shown to Paul by Julius, the army officer in charge. “And the next day we landed at Sidon, and Julius treated Paul with human kindness and permitted him to go to his friends and enjoy their care.”
Those who supervise personnel can learn from this non-Christian. He was a man who understood the human needs of others. He did not coldly fit everyone into the same mold. A supervisor can show human kindness in this way by realizing the individual human needs and the shortcomings of each one. He will not demand the same from each one. One may be quick to learn new assignments, be fast and efficient in doing his work. It would be easy to show human kindness to this employee. But, how would you treat the one who is slow? The slower one needs more training, attention and time, which may tax the patience of the supervisor. The good supervisor will be interested in the well-being of each and will do little things to make that one’s work enjoyable. While he maintains loyalty to his employer, he will be more concerned with the overall benefit of each employee than in following some special rule. Julius did not look into a “rule book” to find out if he could permit Paul to enjoy the care of his friends. If there had been such a book, it probably would have forbidden such kindness.
Later, on that same voyage to Rome, the group suffered shipwreck and all aboard the ship safely reached shore on the island of Malta. Even though Paul and many with him were prisoners and all were strangers, Luke explained that the islanders “showed us extraordinary human kindness, for they kindled a fire and received all of us helpfully because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold.” (Acts 28:2, 7, 10) There is a lesson here for us: human kindness can be shown to those who are not of your background or faith. Jesus encourages us: “Prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good.”—Matt. 5:45.
How are we personally benefited if we show human kindness? It brings rich rewards through personal satisfaction and peace of mind. (Prov. 19:22, 23) Jehovah is pleased when we show kindness. (Mic. 6:8) If we show human kindness by being a good neighbor, like the good Samaritan, we will have blessings from Jehovah and usually from our fellowman. “Practice giving, and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you.” (Luke 6:38) Even if these rewards are not immediately apparent, the peace of mind and self-respect transcend, making human kindness worth while.
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Do you extend kindness to those who are not of your background or faith?