My mom has this bumper sticker that says, “Be Kinder than Necessary.” My dad teases her, but imagine a world where people focused their energy on irrational kindness. Now, I’m not naïve enough to believe in utopias (except Heaven, of course) but I do believe that there is an inherent goodness in everyone. And I believe that displaying that goodness through simple acts of kindness may be the best Bible some ever see.
It’s easy to be unkind in this world. Traffic triggers road rage; advertising advocates discontentment; technology tempts isolation. These negative forces make us unhappy, insecure, irritated and envious – emotions not conducive to kindness. Even worse, our schedules are constantly crammed, our stress levels skyrocket, and the news bombards us with the world’s problems.
If we want to live happy lives, kind lives, godly lives, we have to love people the way Christ loves them. It’s not easy, and I fail every day. But sometimes the people who are hardest to love are the same people who need it the most. So where do we start?
Loving others begins when we find love for Christ.
If we don’t feel loved ourselves, how can we love others? God loves us with an unimaginable love, even on our worst days. And nothing we do will separate us from the love that is God. He made sure of that by sending His son to die for us. Isn’t that incredible?! Romans 8:38 says, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries for tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” God loved us when we didn’t love him back. God still loves us when we do stupid things and blame Him for them. God loves in our failures, in our weaknesses, in our successes and in our strengths. God loves always.
“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
Once we recognize that we don’t deserve God’s unconditional love, it seems only fitting that we would strive to make his love known. If Jesus loves and forgives the people who literally put a crown of thorns on his head, I can love the person who cuts in line. If Jesus loves and forgives the people who screamed blasphemous insults at Him when He was dying for them, I can love the person who subtweets me. It doesn’t matter if they deserve it. I don’t deserve God’s love, but I have it. The least I can do is love others the way He wants me to.
Grateful people are happy, kind people.
Numerous studies have confirmed that the happiest people are the most grateful people. This makes sense because envy and discontentment breed bitterness. In our society, we adopt an unhealthy mentality that we always need more than what we have. It sickens me that I can complain about lack of wifi when millions of children lack water. I don’t say this to engender guilt but rather to prevent greed. After all, if we didn’t have money and resources, how could we help those in need? We just must remember to treasure what we have, not measure what we don’t. If we are content with our lives and ourselves, kindness will abound.
“Hurt people, hurt people. Forgiven people, forgive people.”
When people upset us, it’s our instinct to fight back. It’s true that we think without speaking, but with social media and texting, it’s even truer that we post without processing. In the heat of our anger, it’s all too easy to post things we would never say. But before we subtweet, before we push send, and before we ruin a friendship, we should remember that our temporary hurt is not worth permanent consequences. If we believe that God forgives us for every dumb thing we do, we can extend that same grace to others, who are just flawed humans like ourselves.
Focus on why, not what.
My counselor mom, who has more wisdom than anyone I know, is forever reminding me that there are reasons for people’s mean behavior. It’s easy to focus on what they are doing, but it takes true kindness to examine why they are doing it. Most of the time, insults aren’t personal attacks. They are often just misguided jealousy, insecurity, or anger from other problems. People come from broken homes. People fight addiction. People feel unloved. Recognizing the circumstances of others lessons anger. It doesn’t excuse their action, but it helps our reaction be more like Jesus. So sometimes people just need a little love and a little kindness. It’s not enough to tell people about Christ; we must show them.
Disclaimer: General Statements Ahead
Maybe I sound like a hippie trying to get everyone singing kumbayah. But lately, everyone keeps saying that Christ has evaded our culture. The problem isn’t that Jesus has left. The problem is that we aren’t living like Him. And living like Jesus starts with loving like Him. So my mom’s cheesy bumper sticker sums it all up: “Be Kinder than Necessary.”