Readers who are in my age range will probably remember Glen Campbell’s 1970 hit “Try a Little Kindness.” It was a good challenge for people then, and it is still good advice for us today – perhaps especially today!

Kindness is listed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22 and 23 as one of the nine fruit of the Spirit. Most versions translate the fifth fruit as kindness, but it is obvious that several of the other qualities listed overlap: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We all know what kindness is when we see it, but how can we define the quality? In The Message Eugene Peterson renders the word “a sense of compassion in the heart.” But it’s more than that, isn’t it? In a 2017 Psychology Today article author Karyn Hall (Ph.D) suggests “Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.”

Some synonyms include compassion, gentleness, benevolence, thoughtfulness, mercy, consideration, and helpfulness. Perhaps the root of kindness is “a sense of compassion in the heart,” but kindness is expressed by both words and actions. Kindness can be as simple as smiling at someone or attentively listening to someone.

Kindness is not always automatic, but must be something we choose to practice. For many it becomes a habit that is automatic. We express kindness to our family members, friends, neighbors, and to those we don’t even know. Showing kindness is not contingent upon someone showing us kindness.

“What goes around comes around” is often true, but we do not show kindness with the expectation of something in return. Nevertheless, Jesus’ Golden Rule in Luke 6:31 applies to our expressions of kindness: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

The great example of kindness is seen in God’s actions toward us as well as demonstrated in the life of Jesus. Philip Keller notes “throughout the Scriptures the great theme of God’s unrelenting kindness is great toward us.” One of the reasons we are called to be kind to others is to respond with gratitude for God’s kindness shown to us.

It’s obvious that expressing kindness is important to God when it comes to his children. I like the title of Karyn Hall’s brief article in Psychology Today: The Importance of Kindness. She echoes God’s words in Jeremiah 9:24, “let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

It goes without saying that being unkind should never characterize those who are followers of Jesus. I agree with Karyn Hall’s assessment, “While kindness has a connotation of meaning someone is naive or weak, that is not the case. Being kind often requires courage and strength.”

Christopher Wright reminds us that when we are shown kindness we sometimes say to the person “thank you, you’re very kind.” At other times people will say, “that was a very kind thing you did.” Wright summarizes, “Kind deeds are done by people who are themselves kind by nature and character” (Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit, p. 84).

We are called not just to do kind things but to be kind peopleAnd listen again to or check out for the first time Glen Campbell’s song “Try a Little Kindness.”

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(A follow-up to “Do We Need to Be So Harsh?”)

Country music fans will recognize this post’s heading as the title of Tim McGraw’s current number one song. If you’re not a fan of country music don’t worry—I’m not going to include the words or a link to him singing the song. I simply appreciate the song’s challenge to always stay humble and kind.

Who doesn’t need that challenge? I don’t know about you, but I certainly could do better when it comes to humility and kindness. I’m guilty sometimes of thinking more highly of myself that I should (see Romans 12:3).

Because I drive a lot I have XM radio and split my drive time listening to sports, news, and music. And I rotate the music I listen to between oldies but goodies and country. McGraw’s song is one of the few I hear that convicts and encourages me.

It seems to me that the two, humility and kindness, go together. Humble people tend to be kind–and kind people tend to be humble. In my experience, proud people are often cruel—and cruel people are proud.

Consider a couple of synonyms of humble: respectful and submissive. Think about a couple of synonyms of kind: considerate and gracious. I know I need to be more submissive and gracious, more considerate and respectful.

The Bible is clear that followers of Jesus need to cultivate both humility and kindness. Among many passages, four New Testament passages you might consider are Jesus in Luke 14:7-11, Paul’s description of love in I Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 and 23, and Paul’s call to us within the body of Christ in Ephesians 4:2. Go ahead and take the time to check out those four passages—it won’t take long at all.

When do we need to be humble and kind? And who are the people we need to show humility and kindness? I would suggest we begin with those closest to us—family and friends—and then include everyone with whom we come into contact. I think we should show humility and kindness to people we don’t even know—including those who serve us in so many ways.

It’s not in the Bible, but I note the song challenges us to always stay humble and kind. That suggests we may be humble and kind at one point in our lives only later to abandon those qualities. Or it may suggest that we are generally humble and kind but there are times when we are not. Do either of those suggestions ring true in your life—as they do in mine?

I plan to become kinder and more humble as a way of life. And not because of Tim McGraw’s song, but because I want to live more like the Lord wants me to live. We have to decide that we are going to be humble and kind and then with the Lord’s help do it.

Share these thoughts on social media and feel free to comment below.

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