“If you find one of the restrooms dirty, let me know, and I’ll clean it for you.”
The attendant stood in an airport bathroom filled with travelers. There wasn’t a hint of irritability or resentment in her voice as she went about her job. She talked to every woman who exited the bathroom, saying “have a blessed day” to each one. I was struck by this woman’s kindness and positivity in the midst of a thankless job.
The restroom attendant stood out to me because there is so much negativity in the world. Kindness has become the exception rather than the rule, leaving us surprised when a stranger is kind to us. Negativity isn’t hard to find– just turn on the news or scroll through social media and you will find people trying to destroy each other with their words, or trying to ruin things for other people.
Do difficult things need to be said? Yes, sometimes. But the way they are said can tear someone down or build them up. And then there are some things are better left unsaid. Words can promote peace or provoke hostility. Proverbs 15:1 says, “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Of course, it can be really difficult to answer gently when someone is trying to provoke or anger us. It can be so difficult when we are sure that we are right and the other person is wrong. But we can have both convictions and kindness. This might not happen overnight. We might have to work at it. And then work at it some more. This is the challenge we have in leaving the world a little better than we found it.
The Atlantic wrote an interesting article about the power of kindness for couples. Something “free”- not money, looks, status, expensive gifts, or vacations- is what keeps people together:
“Being mean is the death knell of relationships. Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research…has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved…there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship…’Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger,’ Julie Gottman explained, ‘but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger.'”
This seems so common sense, and yet kindness can still be so rare. We can feel that withholding kindness is our right when we’ve been wronged. But a kind response doesn’t excuse someone else’s behavior, it is given despite it. Kindness is not weakness. It takes great strength to exercise self-control and respond with kindness. We have a powerful ability to diffuse tense situations with the ways in which we respond. It won’t be easy, and we won’t be perfect at it, but it is possible by God working through us.
Think of someone who is difficult to love (or even like). How can you extend kindness to him or her? What might the outcome be? Or, how can you show kindness to those you don’t know? To someone who may be overlooked? How can you pray for your enemies?
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