It wasn’t until we lived in England, that I learned there is a difference between niceness and kindness. As one friend put it, “Kathie, ice cream is ‘nice’, kindness goes deeper.” Looking at several dictionaries this morning, I found the distinction between the two terms is best understood by considering what is at the root of what niceness and kindness do and do not communicate:
Niceness: Synonyms–befitting, correct, decent, well-bred, proper, polite, respectable, seemly. Antonyms–improper, inappropriate, incorrect, indecent, indecorous, unbecoming, ungenteel, unseemly
Kindness: Synonyms–benevolence, courtesy, grace, indulgence, favor, mercy, service. Antonyms: coldheartedness, hard-heartedness, inhumanity, inhumanness, mercilessness, pitilessness
Niceness can tend to be a bit flashy (i.e. “Look at what I just did!”), kindness is more simply applied as it focuses on the needs of others. It all boils down to this:
Niceness is about outward appearances,
Simple kindness, is often sacrificial as it reflects what is in the heart.
Simple kindness is a fruit of God’s Spirit.
Simple kindness, prayerfully applied, is rooted in God’s love.
“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
I Corinthians 13:5
When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told a story about two societal “nice guys” and another man, viewed a societal reject in that day, who none-the-less, demonstrated simple kindness:
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him . . . beat him and . . . left him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He . . . bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (Luke 10:30-35)
Jesus then asked this very important question,
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (verse 36)
The “expert in the law” responded to Jesus’ question–avoiding even mentioning the word, “Samaritan”–answered, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him (and continues to tell us), “Go and do likewise.” (verse 37)
The Scriptures continue to call you and I to,
GO . . . “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:29),
GO . . . “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
GO . . . “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
What I have learned this week as I have thought about kindness is that:
To act in the simple kindness of Christ, does not require a lot of fanfare,
but for it to be truly effective as a fruit of God’s Spirit,
prayer is essential.
In my last post I wrote about the Duggar’s, a Christian family featured on a reality TV program called, Nineteen Kids and Counting. Normally I would not write about people on a television program, but as I have watched this family be (essentially) ‘beaten and left for dead’ by elements of the societal elite of our day, I have been challenged to think about MY role in their story. Am I one of the “nice guys” full of self-importance, who says, “Too bad for them”, as I continue on my busy way? Or, do I stop and apply simple kindness by praying for the family and asking, “God, what would you have me do?”
How about you? Are there people or situations that you are aware of, but manage to “pass by on the other side”, because you feel like you cannot take on one more thing? Perhaps you avoid listening to the news (like I sometimes do) because it is always seems to be so . . . dare I say it? . . . not very nice. What I am learning is that, although the world is not a nice place to live and sometimes is even scary, simple kindness applies prayer to every situation, looking to Christ for wisdom as to when and how to help. Simple kindness challenges each one of us to set aside fear, and even our busyness, as we learn what living by faith is truly all about.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:12 & 17
All to His Glory!