HOW reassuring and comforting an act of kindness can be! When we realize that someone cares for us, we are grateful. Since each of us appreciates being treated with kindness, how can we develop this beautiful quality?
Kindness involves taking a genuine interest in the welfare of others—an interest that is expressed through helpful words and deeds. An active quality, kindness is more than a veneer of politeness and courtesy. True kindness is motivated by deep love and empathy. More than that, such kindness is part of the fruitage of God’s holy spirit that Christians are told to cultivate. (Gal. 5:22, 23) We must develop kindness, so let us examine how Jehovah and his Son have shown this quality and how we can follow their example.
JEHOVAH IS KIND TOWARD ALL
Jehovah is kind and considerate toward all, including “the unthankful and wicked.” (Luke 6:35) For instance, Jehovah “makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45) Hence, even those who do not acknowledge Jehovah as their Creator still benefit from his kind provisions for life and may enjoy a measure of happiness.
We find an outstanding example of kindness in what Jehovah did for Adam and Eve. Shortly after they sinned, Adam and Eve “sewed fig leaves together and made loin coverings for themselves.” However, Jehovah knew that they would need suitable clothing in order to live outside of Eden, where the ground was now cursed with “thorns and thistles.” So Jehovah kindly responded to their need by making “long garments from skins” for them.—Gen. 3:7, 17, 18, 21.
Although Jehovah is kind to “both the wicked and the good,” he especially desires to show kindness toward his faithful servants. As an example, during the days of the prophet Zechariah, an angel was troubled at seeing the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem come to a standstill. Jehovah listened to the angel’s concerns and replied with “kind and comforting words.” (Zech. 1:12, 13) Jehovah dealt similarly with the prophet Elijah. At one point, the prophet felt so low that he asked Jehovah to put him to death. Jehovah was attentive to Elijah’s feelings and sent an angel to strengthen him. Moreover, God assured the prophet that he was not alone. After Elijah received such kind words and the help he needed, he was able to carry on in his assignment. (1 Ki. 19:1-18) Among God’s servants, who has been foremost in reflecting Jehovah’s outstanding quality of kindness?
JESUS—A MAN OF GREAT KINDNESS
During his earthly ministry, Jesus was known for being kind and considerate. He was never harsh or overbearing. With empathy he said: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. . . . For my yoke is kindly.” (Matt. 11:28-30) In response to his kindness, people followed Jesus wherever he went. “Moved with pity,” Jesus fed them, healed their sick and infirm, and taught them “many things” about his Father.—Mark 6:34; Matt. 14:14; 15:32-38.
As evidence of his great kindness, Jesus was understanding and discerning in his dealings with others. In fact, no matter how inconvenient the request, Jesus received “kindly” all those who sincerely sought him out. (Luke 9:10, 11) For instance, he did not reprimand a frightened woman who, although she was ceremonially unclean, touched his outer garment in hopes of being cured of a flow of blood. (Lev. 15:25-28) With compassion for this woman who had suffered for 12 years, Jesus told her: “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed from your grievous sickness.” (Mark 5:25-34) What a marvelous act of kindness!
KINDNESS REQUIRES POSITIVE ACTION
In the examples noted above, we see that true kindness is expressed by action. Jesus illustrated the need for action in the parable about the neighborly Samaritan. Although animosity existed between Samaritans and Jews, the Samaritan man in the parable felt pity for a man who had been robbed, beaten, and left half-dead on the road. Kindness moved the Samaritan to action. He treated the man’s wounds and took him to an inn. The Samaritan then paid the innkeeper to care for the injured man and even offered to pay for any additional expenses.—Luke 10:29-37.
While kindness is often expressed by deeds, it can also be shown through thoughtful and motivating words. Hence, though “anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down,” the Bible adds that “a good word cheers it up.” (Prov. 12:25) We can lift the spirits of others when we are motivated by kindness and goodness to share upbuilding things with them.* Our kind words will show that we care about them. Thus encouraged, they will cope better with the trials they face in life.—Prov. 16:24.
Because of being created “in God’s image,” all humans are capable of developing the quality of kindness. (Gen. 1:27) For instance, Julius, a Roman army officer in whose custody the apostle Paul traveled to Rome, treated the apostle “with kindness and permitted him to go to his friends and enjoy their care” at the city of Sidon. (Acts 27:3) Sometime later, the inhabitants of Malta showed “extraordinary kindness” to Paul and others who had just experienced shipwreck. The islanders even made a fire to warm the victims. (Acts 28:1, 2) Yet, as commendable as their actions were, kindness involves more than just performing an occasional kind act.
To please God fully, we must develop kindness as a permanent part of our personality and way of life. For this reason, Jehovah tells us to “clothe” ourselves with kindness. (Col. 3:12) Admittedly, though, we do not always find it easy to make this godly quality a part of us. Why not? We may hold back from showing kindness because of shyness, insecurity, opposition, or lingering traces of selfishness. Nevertheless, we can overcome such difficulties by relying on holy spirit and by imitating Jehovah’s pattern of kindness.—1 Cor. 2:12.
Can we identify areas wherein we need to improve in showing kindness? We should ask ourselves: ‘Am I an empathetic listener? Am I alert to the needs of others? When was the last time I was kind to someone who is not a family member or a close friend?’ Then we can set goals, such as getting to know more about the people around us, especially in the Christian congregation. In this way we can become alert to their circumstances and their needs. Next, we should try to show kindness to others in ways that we would appreciate receiving it if we were in their place. (Matt. 7:12) Finally, Jehovah will bless our efforts to cultivate kindness if we ask him for help.—Luke 11:13.
KINDNESS ATTRACTS OTHERS
When the apostle Paul listed what distinguished him as God’s minister, he included “kindness.” (2 Cor. 6:3-6) People were drawn to Paul because of his personal interest in them, which he expressed through kind actions and words. (Acts 28:30, 31) Similarly, we can attract people to the truth by our kind behavior. When we show kindness to all, including those who oppose us, we may warm their heart and melt away their hostility. (Rom. 12:20) In time, they may even be attracted to the Bible’s message.
In the earthly Paradise to come, countless resurrected ones will no doubt be thrilled to experience true kindness, perhaps for the first time. Out of gratitude, they in turn will be moved to show kindness to others. Anyone then living who refuses to show kindness and help others will have no permanent place under God’s Kingdom. On the other hand, those approved by God to live forever will treat one another in a loving and kind way. (Ps. 37:9-11) What a secure and peaceful world that will be! However, before that blessed time arrives, how can we benefit now from showing kindness?
BENEFITS FROM SHOWING KINDNESS
“A kind man benefits himself,” the Bible says. (Prov. 11:17) People are drawn to a kind person, and they tend to be kind to him as well. Jesus said: “With the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.” (Luke 6:38) Thus, a kind person easily finds and keeps good friends.
The apostle Paul urged those in the congregation in Ephesus to “become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another.” (Eph. 4:32) A congregation benefits greatly when it is made up of empathetic Christians who show kindness and seek to help one another. Such ones never resort to harsh words, sharp criticism, or hurtful sarcasm. Instead of spreading harmful gossip, they strive to use their tongue to help others. (Prov. 12:18) As a result, the congregation thrives spiritually.
Yes, kindness is a quality expressed by word and action. When we are kind, we reflect the warm and generous personality of our God, Jehovah. (Eph. 5:1) In turn, we strengthen our congregations and draw others to pure worship. May we always be known as a people who display kindness!
Goodness will be considered in a future article in this nine-part series on the fruitage of God’s holy spirit.