I started this blog after hearing a talk by Dr. Barry Corey, President of Biola University, a private Evangelical Christian university located in La Mirada, CA. He has a book titled Love Kindness: Discover the Power of a Forgotten Christian Virtue.
Kindness is not niceness. The word nice/niceness is not in the bible, but kind/kindness is included again and again – in the Old Testament, New Testament, Gospels, Acts and Letters.
- Definition of nice is pleasing or agreeable in nature; socially correct; refined.
- Definition of kind is showing a tender and considerate nature; characterized by mercy and compassion.
A “nice” person is one who conforms his behavior to what he believes society sees as “nice.” The nice person is focused on himself. He does nice things in order to be perceived (by others and by himself) as a “nice person.” Niceness arises from a selfish desire for personal gain.
A “kind” person doesn’t necessarily care about what “society” thinks of him; he acts out of a deep-rooted love for his fellow living beings. The kind person is focused on others. He wants is to serve the person in front of him. Kindness is rooted in empathy and love.
The “nice guy” tends to be even nicer than usual when a person of power is around, “being extra nice” to him. If you have a powerful friend, you gain power by association. In this regard, niceness arises from selfishness, greed, and the desire for power. It is said that niceness is Satan’s most dangerous invention.
If someone is offers you a piece of gum because they have some and you don’t, that is being nice; if someone is offers you a piece of gum because your breath needs freshening that is being kind.
Kindness is a radical way of living biblically. It is on Paul’s short list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit discussed in his letter to the Galatians. It’s not a duty or an act. It’s an imperative. It’s the natural outcome of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. It is a way of living and a consistent act, not a random act.
What we are missing in today’s society is that every living being is deserves kindness. More precisely, every living being can be an object for your empathy. Kindness looks like hospitality, fellowship, conversation. It looks like Jesus.
It is easy to be kind to those you know and those with the same likes, background and even views on politics, race, gender, etc. It is more difficult to be kind to those you don’t know, who are not like you. Especially those who do not share your views. Kindness never, ever comes through a bullhorn or is the outcome of a shouting match and is rarely found on Facebook.
Kindness is talking across a table as opposed to shouting across a street. Preferably that table has a meal on it. Kindness is civility as opposed to protests; it is understanding over demonstrations; collaboration over culture wars. Kindness comes without judgement.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he urges them to “be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ” (4:32)
Dr. Corey talks about having a firm center but with soft edges. Be true to your principles, your beliefs and rooted in your faith. However, be considerate and compassionate towards others. Consider the three other options:
- People with firm center and hard edges are pushy, arrogant, prideful (i.e. most of the political commentators on the cable news shows or how about the Pharisees!)
- People with soft center and hard edges are usually bombastic aggressive bullies such that no one asks them to many questions or peers too deep into their shallow core.
- People with soft center and soft edges are pushovers, lackeys, or toadies.
We need to stop telling children to be nice and instead tell them to be kind, and then teach them the difference. Also, my Dad once told me that if someone offers you a piece of gum, take it – there may be a reason.