It was one of those moments when you hear the words coming out of your mouth and you wish you could grab them and put them back in.
One of those fleeting experiences that stays with you for life.
I was standing around with a group of friends, laughing and talking about nothing important. I was young enough to be extremely short-sighted, but old enough to know better.
I had heard someone recently say something that I thought was witty, and clever, and funny… and I decided to try it out myself.
In hindsight, I now realize this other person made the comment about themselves. Some self-deprecating humor, if you will.
No, I shot the words out like an arrow straight at the heart of a friend.
I wasn’t sending them out maliciously. I had no intention of hurting her. I wanted to get a laugh.
But it didn’t matter. The words hit, and penetrated, and perhaps have stayed with her as long as they have with me.
Over the years I’ve said many things I wish I could retrieve and put back in my quiver.
Sometimes out of ignorance.
Often out of anger or frustration.
Always out of selfishness.
I haven’t done extensive study or research, but I think it’s safe to say every sinful and hurtful action we take stems from selfishness.
And we all have to be intentional to keep our self in check. Even the kindest among us has to check motives and intent.
Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
But those of us in Christ have been commanded to live differently, not according to our flesh!
But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV)
I’ve been struck, recently, at how unkind even we believers can be. I’m not even talking about the big, controversial, societal issues we see played out in the media.
I mean with our friends, our spouses, our children, fellow members in the body of Christ.
I’ve been disturbed by the words spewed by people who claim to follow Jesus…
…and then quickly convicted of my own tendency to act out of selfish ambition.
We’re admonished in Philippians 2:3 to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil 2:3 ESV)
Meaning others receive preferential treatment.
It’s not what our culture teaches, and it’s certainly not what our heart defaults to.
We need the Holy Spirit working in us to enable us to count others more significant than ourselves.
What if we went through each day asking the Spirit to guide us in our words and actions?
It would mean when I’m tired or frustrated, I could still respond to my husband and children with kindness.
It would mean when I get the 5th call in one day from the same telemarketer, I could speak with kindness. Sigh…
It would mean when I’m distracted by my own problems I could be intentional to listen to a friend’s concerns with attentive kindness.
It would mean when God puts someone in my life who is not easy to get along with, I could love them and show them kindness anyway.
It would mean when given the opportunity to speak poorly of one person to another, I could bite my tongue and be reminded that I am no better.
As God is teaching me to be kind in all of my interactions, I’m not getting it right all of time.
Increasingly, yes – always…not even close.
But here’s what blows my mind. The times when I genuinely ask the Spirit to guide my thoughts, words, and actions towards others…I don’t just grit my teeth and say something nice when I don’t really feel like it.
God actually allows me to see them differently. He allows me to see myself differently. He allows me to not be a slave to self-preservation or promotion, to not act out of fear or selfish ambition.
He enables me to do the very thing He has called me to do, which is really just Him keeping His promise. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)
That same spirit should be producing fruit in our lives. Bear in mind, the fruit of the spirit is not the same as ‘giftings’, where one person receives one or two and another person receives something else.
No if we are abiding in Christ, and He in us, we should each be seeing all of these fruits being cultivated in us.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (Galatians 5:22 ESV)
My natural tendency might be to take a backseat or be passive in certain circumstances, but I’m learning that is not the same thing as being kind.
I might choose to not say anything at all if I have nothing nice to say, but that’s not necessarily because I’m being kind either.
Join me, would you? Let’s ask God to shape our hearts to genuine kindness towards others.
It matters for our own well-being.
It matters for others’ protection.
It matters for our testimony.
Most importantly, it matters because it is another opportunity we have to point others to God and bring Him glory.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)