It is interesting that the verb in this passage linked to the word “kind” literally means “to become,” and its present tense form would suggest, “practice becoming kind to one another.” This indicates that kindness is something that has to be diligently pursued and practiced.
What does it mean to “practice” kindness? In a basic way it means to consciously put our attention on how we treat others. To be mindful of the impact we have at every moment. Well, practicing also means that some days go better than others because somedays we may barely have enough energy beyond meeting our basic needs. We all have days like that, but the idea is to keep practicing. Even when you feel a little below your normal energy level or even feeling depressed, kindness is worth a try. Take a deep breath and give someone a smile (even behind your mask), or a wave. You just might find that it amplifies your energy and leaves you feeling better than you did before. The practice of kindness often benefits from taking a moment and bringing in a deep breath, expand your chest and your awareness of the world around you.
Practicing kindness also involves practicing generosity for they go hand-in-hand. Many of us think of generosity in the material sense of – things or – money, but there is a deeper meaning to the energy of generosity. We find this meaning in how generous we are with our time, energy, and attention. Our listening skills come in handy with this kind of generosity. When we engage in deep listening, we are allowing the moment to expand as we take in their words. At times, we can also give people something we call the “benefit of the doubt”. I see this benefit of the doubt, as the way we can discipline our thinking and judgment to allow room for more possibilities outside of our preconceptions, outside of our doubts. This is how we suspend our disbelief and allow for additional insight and knowledge to come forward in the moment. This form of generosity makes it possible for us to experience the point of view of the person we are interacting with. To really feel what they are communicating in a more complete way. This opens up our hearts and creates empathy and connection. The other person is felt, heard, and seen where they are, at that moment.
In my pastoral care lately, kindness and generosity, has been coming up a lot. By exploring it as a path for us to create more connection and intimacy in relationships. Often times we tend to think of kindness and generosity in the material sense, giving something we bought, or doing a task for our loved ones. There is nothing wrong with this in it’s basic sense, but, there is a deeper level. When we go beyond this material aspect to begin connecting at the emotional level of generosity and kindness it starts to open up our hearts. Something so needed in our world right now.
So much of what happens in the world that is toxic or causes trauma is about people being unkind to each other or being stingy. Imagine the difference we could make in the world if we all practiced more kindness and energetic generosity. Imagine the warmth that we would feel socially, the good we could do, the suffering we could abate. Imagine the love we could foster in ourselves and others. Now that’s the world I want to live in…wouldn’t you?
Grace and Peace, Pastor Jay Eckman