I was just a Southern country redneck in my early twenties when the company I worked for sent me up to New York City for some training. I spent much of my early life on a little family farm and didn’t even live on paved road until my late teens. I had never stayed in an actual “hotel” or seen a building that had nearly as many floors as my hometown had streets, and at that point, driving on a highway that had four lanes still felt like an accomplishment. To say the least, I was a bit intimidated.
Unfamiliar Territory ~
A naive country boy heading to the Big Apple with no prior exposure to “yankees” in their natural habitat could be problematic, so my buddies pooled their knowledge and gave me advance warning about what to expect. “Yankees,” they said, “dress funny; they don’t eat grits; they don’t know how to say ordinary words like “ya’ll” and they make words like “school” into two syllables. Forget finding biscuits ‘n gravy for breakfast, and don’t try to understand them, because they talk faster than normal people can listen. Oh, and they’ll put you in jail if you cross the street in the wrong place.”All in all, I figured I’d be more likely to be run over by a taxicab than to encounter anything that looked like kindness, so I was totally unprepared for the spontaneous comment offered by an attractive young woman.
I was sitting at a table by myself in a small restaurant, trying not to make eye contact with anyone when she walked by my table. She paused briefly, put her hand on my shoulder and cocked her head to one side as she scrutinized me. Then she said, “Has anyone ever told you that from a certain angle, you look a little bit like Elvis Presley?”
I was stunned, of course, by the unexpected friendly gesture. “Ahh,” I thought, “Yankee kindness.” Before I could formulate a response she turned on her heel, and as she walked away, said over her shoulder, “Elvis Presley makes me sick.” I decided that yankee kindness was like getting a tetanus shot–the soothing alcohol on your skin just means the needle’s coming next. Sometimes the value of kindness is recognized most clearly by its absence.
Speaking of which, it seems like kindness has vacated the land these days, and that void needs to be refilled. Reading the passage below, you might think the Apostle Paul had been watching the rude, hateful, belligerent, and disruptive behavior that has become the new norm in our country:
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32 (NKJV)
More than a Call to Be “Nice” ~
That admonition from God is more than just a suggestion that we should all try to be “nicer.” It’s a call to engage in a behavioral revolution indicative of the transformation that a personal encounter with Jesus Christ makes possible. Those who experience genuine faith in Christ are challenged to accept a view of themselves so radically different that God describes it as putting on a “new man.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
The command to be “kind” is not a directive that supports avoiding significant and relevant truth or dodging difficult issues. Kindness doesn’t amount to offering acceptance or tacit approval of behavior that is morally, socially, legally, or ethically unacceptable. It isn’t a call to ignore evil in order to avoid making the perpetrators feel bad. The underlying root for the word translated “kind” or “kindness” in the New Testament carries the connotation of behavior that is useful and whose objective is to accomplish results that are good.
Kindness is an effort to make hard things as easy as possible and to facilitate any “good” that can be achieved. Kindness doesn’t engage in twisting or ignoring the truth in order to sound appealing, and it is defined neither by a timid demeanor nor the diminished volume and tone of our voice. Engaging in disingenuous congeniality, approval seeking, or flattery may mimic kindness, but will never accomplish the objectives God intended. Kindness is behavior governed by a heart that wants to achieve resolution to conflict, not just an avoidance of it. Kindness, as God designed it, seeks to develop thoughtful, useful, helpful responses that result in the cooling of tempers and the reduction of strife.
Kindness doesn’t always feel good, and things that feel good aren’t always kind. God said that “the wounds of a friend are more faithful,” and thus more kind, “than the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6 NKJV). David alluded to that when he wrote about a man who may have sounded kind on the surface, but it was a deceptive, counterfeit designed to hide the cruelty in his heart:
The words of his mouth, [David said] were smoother than butter, But war was in his heart; His words were softer than oil, Yet they were drawn swords. Psalm 55:21 (NKJV)
Strength, not Weakness ~
In this upside down culture, kindness isn’t always granted the value that God places on it. It’s frequently misconstrued as weakness, or even cowardice, but kindness as God defines it, is one of the greatest strengths we’ll ever encounter. It’s hard to think about kindness when we’re faced with rudeness, insensitivity, hatefulness, arrogance, or worse. Our impulsive tendency is to retaliate and treat others as we’ve been treated. That’s a normal response, but Jesus didn’t call us to be normal, and He didn’t send us to change the world by duplicating its methods.
Kindness is desperately needed in our country today, but it isn’t achieved by taking a course in applied psychology or joining a kindness group on Facebook. Kindness is listed among the characteristics of the “fruit” of the Spirit of God, and as such, it isn’t achieved by human effort alone.
Kindness has the power to transform the angry, rude, selfish atmosphere that defines our culture, and sometimes even our churches. But it is a divine attribute, and like all those qualities of His nature that God offers flawed human beings, it’s only achieved by surrendering our natural impulses to the One whose love and kindness toward us led Him to die in our place. When we yield to the One who chooses the unlikely, inspires the imperfect, and empowers the unnatural, we may discover again that He can use us to achieve the impossible.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “Those who experience genuine faith in Christ are challenged to accept a view of themselves so radically different that God describes it as putting on a “new man”. (Eph. 4:22-24)” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Kindness doesn’t amount to offering acceptance or tacit approval of behavior that is morally, socially, legally, or ethically unacceptable.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Kindness is frequently misconstrued as weakness, or even cowardice, but kindness as God defines it is one of the greatest strengths we’ll ever encounter.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When we yield to the One who chooses the unlikely, inspires the imperfect, and empowers the unnatural, we may discover again that He can use us to achieve the impossible.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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Can’t comment on the Elvis look-a-like, as I’m more “Kermit the Frog”, but can sure agree with you about “Yankee kindness”; at least some of it. When I moved to the Chicago area, I was overwhelmed at how big a hurry everyone was in and how rude they could be in their quest to get what they want. I remember at my new job, I held the door for a young, soon-to-be mama who was well along in her pregnancy. I’d never been glared at before or called those names for trying to be respectful to a lady. Still, there were truly nice folks who exhibited kindness and patience with me. Some nicknamed me “Governor” cause they thought I was politikin’ to get folks to like me. Truth is, I was just trying to be kind to folks. When I would be asked, “Why are you being so kind to me?” my response was always, “Cause if I didn’t, mama would snatch me bald.” I’d rub my head and add, “So you can see she ain’t afraid to do it either.” A bit of humor can often diffuse a situation. In time, they started calling each other Mr (so and so) or Ms (first name). They came to see my antiquated, antebellum ways as quaint and respectful. What some perhaps never realized is that I was helping them to become a but more kind to others.
Now, to the important part of your message my friend. I loved your comment that kindness is NOT meekness. As I was reading, I thought of a time in Junior High School when I was made a platoon leader over several of my classmates in JROTC. When they messed up in drills (marching, etc.), which seemed often, I was quick to sharply correct them and sometimes criticize. That’s what I saw all the drill instructors in the war movies and Gomer Pyle, USMC do, so that’s what I copied. After one such “shouting match” with an underling, a retired Army Master Sargent (MSG Jesse Friar) pulled me aside and asked if I knew what tact was. When I couldn’t answer successfully, the kind old military man shared with me a definition that I’ve carried with me for nearly 60 years. “Tact”, he said, “was the ability to tell someone to kiss your behind and they thank you for it as they walk away.” Now I know that’s not to Christian-like, but it is something that will sure stick with a fella. In any case, I also very much appreciated your thoughts about how kindness is not simply saying nothing and accepting someone who is living in sin, but it is saying something with kindness to help them see that while you are kind to them, you do not condone their lifestyle, actions, etc. It seems like in today’s world, we are polar opposites. If you disagree with someone, then you are invited to enter into a shouting match with them to tell them how wrong they are and how right you are.
Being wrong or right is a matter of opinion. However, being righteous in God requires us to show and exercise kindness in our life. We can be against abortion, a gay lifestyle (or whatever it’s called these days), drinking to excess, and beating your spouse, but if we voice our dislike of those things in worldly ways, then we become just more “white noise” that gets ignored. If, however, we exhibit true kindness towards that person and let them know that while we don’t accept their sinful lifestyle or action, we do need to show kindness, mercy, and goodness toward the person, then they’ll take note of how different we are from the world. Forgive my rambling here sir, but your words always stir my emotions and invite me to voice openly my often “old style” beliefs and lifestyle choices. Thank you so much for this important message. I pray many receive it with the love you poured into it my friend. Best to you and Ms. Diane.
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Sorry to be late getting to this, J.D., we had family visiting and while it was wonderful, my routines were totally scrapped and we’ve been playing catch-up for days. To start with, please don’t ever feel the need to apologize for anything you send our way. I always love the extras you provide. Those snippets of your life you toss in not only add smiles and a sense of connection with you, but they add a genuine, real-life flavor to the insights you share. And I especially love the way you wrapped up by highlighting how important it is to focus our attention on the person and not allow ourselves to be drawn into the trap of focusing totally on the behavior that he, she, they, them, it, (whatever) may choose as an identifier. Jesus sent us to make disciples and win souls, not to make political points and win debates. Once again, you have made our day brighter and our hearts fuller, and we pray that God will continue to be sovereign over every gift He put in you and that He will be preeminent in the hearts of all the Cross-Dubya family. And we also pray for His protection and provision for you and all the residents on the ranch.
Yes, Ron, this world can most certainly need a booster shot of kindness, maybe several! But let us always remember that it’s because of God that we can even demonstrate kindness in the first place. May He continue to empower us to be His hands and feet in this fallen world.
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Thanks, Martha–and you’re so right about our dependence on Him for anything that is good and positiver. Kindness is a characteristic of His Spirit, and if He doesn’t activate it in us, then the kindness He ordains is going to be foreign to us. God bless you again for bringing another bright spot into our day.
So, do you look just a little bit like Elvis? (I hope not)
🙂 Not even a little, Joy, and not even when the incident took place. Thanks for brightening our day with your response and may God bless you for sending the encouragement.
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