Kindness vs Harshness

He who plants kindness gathers love.

Words cannot express the magnitude of an act of kindness or the healing that comes with a kind word. Think of when your spouse or a friend or even a stranger gave you an unexpected compliment or a word of compassion or a gentle touch. Remember how it lifted your spirits or melted your heart?

As we walk through life, we have innumerable opportunities to show kindness to others. Kindness can come in a special word or in a kind action. Ideas associated with being kind are tender, gentle, gracious, and considerate.

Kindness is not an option in the Christian life or in marriage.

Be kind and com-passionate to one another. Ephesians 4:32a

God also says that we are to wear kindness as we would clothing.  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

Kindness is doing something and not expecting anything in return. It is saying an encouraging word or giving a compliment at an unexpected time.

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:2

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24

Extending a kind word or action in marriage can change the whole tone of the marriage. It can de-escalate a disagreement. It can soften the heart. Being kind and gentle in marriage is one of the markers of marriages that go the distance. Instead of extending kindness, many marriages operate with harsh overtones. See below for more on that topic and suggestions for demonstrating kindness.

Kindness has gotten a lot of publicity in the last few years - maybe because we see a lack of it. Someone started “Random Acts of Kindness” to bring attention to how much an act of kindness can change someone’s day.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness….. Galatians 5:22-23

God’s kindness to us appears many times in His Word. As we meditate on the magnitude of His kindness, our hearts are filled and overflow with kindness towards others.

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6-7

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. Titus 3:4-5a

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Kindness seems like an obvious ingredient in marriage ………. but it is not!

While dating, we look for ways to show kindness to each other. What happens?
Sometimes, the other person says or does something that seems hurtful to me. Instead of talking about it, I lash back with harsh words. Animosity sets in.

Maybe, I may say something that sounds harsh to the other person, even though that was not my intent. My tone, volume, or the phrasing of my words caused misunderstanding without me realizing it.

When I make demeaning or condescending statements, harshness colors my words.

If I am sarcastic, use hostile humor, or mock my spouse, kindness disappears.
When I make demands of my spouse, instead of requests, I can sound harsh.

If I ignore my spouse when I am addressed, I am not extending kindness. I have the opportunity to build a bridge to their heart.

John and Julie Gottman have studied marital interactions for many years. The Gottman’s talk about "masters" and "disasters" as they categorize couples. The masters have learned to apply kindness and generosity to nearly every interaction they have with their spouses, while disasters employ hostility and contempt instead.

As the listener, my role is to see my spouse’s words through a lens of kindness rather than harshness. Misunderstanding and hurt often come through a wrong interpretation of the intent of my spouse.

Assume good will! 

Love is kind.  1 Corinthians 13:4

Kindness is part of love. Kindness isn’t just an intention but it is overt actions or words. So, how do I show it?
  • The most obvious way is to change my tone in what I say. I have to make sure that I sound kind to others. If I speak abruptly or questioningly, I probably don’t sound kind. 
  • Listening to my spouse is an act of kindness. 
  • When I respond with interest when my spouse says something, even if it seems inconsequential, I have inserted kindness into our interaction. 
  • A gentle touch or a random compliment softens the heart of my spouse. 
  • Taking the time to leave a note of appreciation or love is kind. 
  • Letting my spouse know that I am thinking of him/her with a text or a voicemail builds an atmosphere of kindness in my marriage. 
Real kindness puts the needs of his/her spouse first, acting on what will please or help the other most, and not on self-interest. By never being rude or abusive to my spouse in any way, I build a relationship permeated with kindness.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. Ralph Waldo Emerson