Love is Kind
Love is patient; love is kind… 1 Corinthians 13:4a,b
Plato, the 4th century BCE philosopher, is credited with saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” As we explore the characteristics of love, as outlined by Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth, we find that love is first patient, and then love is kind. Plato, 2500 years ago, nailed the essence of the need to be kind – we cannot know the magnitude of the needs and struggles of others. We like to guess, but in so doing we place ourselves in what we believe to be the circumstances of the other and, in too many cases, incorrectly judge their situation to be more favorable than it is.
As in most cases where we compare ourselves to others, our vision is limited, biased, and inaccurate. Everyone needs and deserves love, including patience and kindness. In one of the most straightforward biblical passages on what God expects from us, the prophet Micah (6:8) lists three things: Be just, be kind, and be humble.
What does it mean to be kind? The compassionate focus of kindness is on someone else and his or her situation and needs. When we are kind to someone because he or she deserves it, we are not being kind, but only giving the other what he or she has already earned. Kindness is given, not earned. In that sense, kindness and grace are related. Several years ago, a movement encouraged random acts of kindness – doing something nice for someone else for no reason other than to be kind. The thought was that if I perform a random act of kindness for you, you will be inspired to be kind to someone else, and at some point everyone will receive acts of kindness.
We should be kind to others not because they deserve it, not because they are kind to us, and not because we feel sorry for them. Our motivation for kindness should rise from a loving center within that understands that being kind to others enriches our life, too. It is a natural instinct to want to bless another from our own abundance. The blessing need not be expensive, extravagant, or well planned – a note, a hug, or a smile. A simple kindness is sufficient, and that is what loving people do as a matter of habit, almost unconsciously and often anonymously. We should never doubt that the kindness we share with another may be received as a loving sign from God by the other. A sign that they are recognized and valued; a sign that they are not alone or forgotten. Kindness is an important quality of love and a habit that loving people cultivate.
Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.