I have seen it on bumper stickers and t-shirts. I have seen it on tweets and memes. I have said it multiple times. Be Kind. No character trait has been mentioned more in the last three years yet are we seeing people become more kind? Maybe, but it doesn’t seem like it.
So, why can’t we be more kind? The answer is at the heart of any attempt to Grow Up or be more Christlike. I can’t just wake up one day and tell myself to be kind and expect that to work. It might work for a few hours or even a day but the first time we get exhausted or that person says that thing we lose it and usually in a big way. We try the grit our teeth method again the next day and the same thing happens. What is going on here?
Just like no one ever calmed down when someone told them to calm down, we are not going to become kind by telling ourselves to be kind. We have to become the kind of person who can be kind. How do we do that?
First, we have to know that my capacity to change through will power is extremely limited. We need the transforming power of Christ in our lives. He changes us by working on our hearts and that spreads to our mind, our emotions, and our actions. Without this inner work, our behavior will see only superficial improvements. Pray for Christ to change your heart.
Second, we have to have “off the spot” training. It won’t work to enter into a challenging situation and expect us to handle it with kindness. We have to practice spiritual training exercises “off the spot,” as Dallas Willard suggests. For example, reading Colossians 3 about putting on kindness and other admirable traits reminds us that these are conditions of the self and not sentiments that we can just conjure whenever we need to. Participating in acts of service forces us to show kindness even when we may not feel like it. Worshiping reminds us of God’s kindness to us and convicts us to be more like God in our relations to others. All of these spiritual disciplines work “off the spot” so that we are more kind when we are “on the spot.” Make a “becoming kind” plan by including these practices into your life.
Third, recognize the power of community. We can simply look around us and ask ourselves, “Are my community of friends, acquaintances, and social media connections being kind people?” Teenagers are not the only ones influenced by peer pressure. If we surround ourselves with people incapable of kindness we will also become incapable of kindness. Find good influences and by recognizing points 1 and 2, you will start to become a good influence yourself.
Forget all of the slogans about kindness and start today to become the kind of person who can be more kind.