Chapter 7 of Feminine Appeal deals with the topic of “kindness.” This seems at first glance like a no brainer. But kindness is actually harder than we like to admit sometimes.
Have you ever been surprised at how unkind you can be? I sure have! There have been too many times when I have caught myself thinking, saying or doing things that I am not proud of.
Carolyn Mahaney prefaces this topic explaining that in order to tease out the full meaning of the imperative to be kind, we must also address the topic of doing good. For goodness is implicit in the definition of the Greek word for “kind” in this passage. Kindness and goodness can often be used interchangeably, but there are actually some differences between the two traits. Jerry Bridges explains:
kindness: the sincere desire for the happiness of others
goodness: the activity calculated to advance that happiness.
You can’t have the effectual rewards of one without the other. Just having the desire for the happiness of others doesn’t get you anywhere. And just doing things for other people’s happiness isn’t genuine–it’s people pleasing.
Just like talk and no walk, or walk and no talk. Only leads to hypocrites and “good people” with no explanation or display of the gospel.
First, we must ask for help before we try to do act in kindness or goodness. Just like every other topic we have covered. John 14:26 says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit living within us. He is the One who produces this fruit in our lives. When we try to accomplish it on our own, we are going to come up short.
There are THREE main hindrances to kindness:
Just like a sponge, when circumstances arise that squeeze us, what is inside is revealed. Matthew 15:18 says, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” Anger is when we desire something more than we desire to please God. Expressions of anger reveal sinful desires in our hearts, cravings that are not being satisfied. Is that convicting? Often times we desire peace and quiet, convenience and ease, a clean and orderly house, appreciation and recognition, MORE than we desire to glorify God by being kind.
The solution is to humbly submit our sinful cravings to God. This requires humility, but we have God’s pledge that He will give grace to the humble (James 4:6). He will help us turn from anger and cultivate kindness (121).
Bitterness is based upon somebody else’s sin who is close to us, and who did something to us. It has everything to do with the proximity to us. “As wives and mothers, we must be especially wary of developing bitterness toward our husbands and children–our closest relationships” (122). Ephesians 4:31 instructs us to “get rid of all bitterness.” So HOW do we do that?
The solution is forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” For when we remember how much we have been forgiven, only then will we have the capacity to forgive. By pondering the cross, our perspective can be transformed, because we then realize that all of our offenses against a holy God make us just as guilty as the person who has wronged us. When we can receive forgiveness from God, we must also extend forgiveness just as He did in Christ.
Judging is looking for other’s faults, and without valid or sufficient reason, forming unfavorable opinions of their qualities, words, actions, or motives.” Also known as looking for the worst in others. Often we make negative assumptions about others only to find out later that we were completely wrong. Mahaney states, “Sinful judging can wreak havoc with the desire for our husbands’ and children’s happiness; therefore, we must be vigilant in our efforts to resist this temptation” (125).
The solution is repentance. We MUST enlist the Holy Spirit’s aid to making loving judgments. When we repent from judging, we will gain fresh passion for our families’ happiness. We must not presume we are judging a situation correctly. We must ASK if we are perceiving the situation accurately with humility and kindness.
Questions to ponder:
- If you were to rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 of your kindness before marriage and now, how would the results fall? More kind? Or less kind?
- If family and friends were to use one word to describe your character, do you have any idea what they would say?
Scripture makes it clear what we should be known for:
- praying (James 5:16-18)
- No one can pray for our husbands and families better than we can!
- greeting (Romans 16:16)
- How do you greet your husband when he comes home? (or when you come home to him?)
- Are you greeting/being greeted with enthusiasm?
- listening (Proverbs 20:5)
- Do you practice listening? I think this skill is increasingly difficult for our generation because we have so many distractions. We must PRACTICE the art of listening! Not just hearing, but understanding.
- Have sincere interest in what our husbands and children are saying. Don’t interrupt, look away, yawn, or take over the conversation.
- encouraging (Proverbs 12:25)
- How do we talk to and about husbands and family members? We should be on the lookout for praiseworthy actions that glorify God–then give specific encouragement.
- planning (Proverbs 22:3, 21:5)
- Planning ahead to do good works. This is the “calculated” part of kindness and goodness. This could mean planning to hide ourselves and family from trouble as well as planning to initiate good works.
A lot of these acts of kindness do not lend themselves to immediate return. We must think of them as an investment for greater return later in life. “Marriage will become more precious. Motherhood will grow more dear. The rewards will start coming–with bigger and bigger returns” (133). Regardless of who takes notice in this life, God is watching. He is recording every expression of kindness and every act of goodness. What greater incentive could there be to advance our families’ happiness?
- In which of these five acts of goodness would you most like to improve on?
- How do you plan on seeking to change?