Kinder, gentler, wiser

But where is it written that we must act as if we don’t care, as if we’re not moved. Well, I am moved. I want a kinder, gentler nation.

George HW Bush, 1988 speech

When I heard that George HW Bush passed away, I thought not about his politics but about his call to care about others. “I want a kinder, gentler nation,” he said. Bush knew that in caring about others, some would see softness and weakness. He cared anyway.

In the kinder, gentler speech, Bush said, “[p]rosperity with a purpose means taking your idealism and making it concrete by certain acts of goodness.” Thirty years later, America is still a prosperous nation.  Unfortunately, she is losing sight of her noble purpose. She is losing her goodness.

George Bush’s sentiments were at odds with those of the current president. Today, Americans are encouraged to be self-centered – to put America first. Today, Americans are urged to live in fear of others. Instead of celebrating a thousand points of light – selfless volunteerism – we’re building walls to keep others out. 

George Bush had a privileged upbringing yet he still lived a life of humility, a life of servant leadership. He understood that from those who have been given much, much will be demanded. He understood that from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48).

Kindness flows from wisdom, but as I think Bush understood, it is not the “wisdom” of the world. The world sees kindness and gentleness as weakness. The world teaches a false wisdom of selfish ambition and vain conceit. Those who subscribe to this way of thinking put themselves first, viewing others with an “us verses them” mindset. Instead of sowing unity and peace, they sow division and discord. Instead of practicing acts of goodness and kindness, they look only to their own interests. Instead of lifting others up, they tear others down. 

Kindness and gentleness, like all good virtues, flow from the wisdom of God. A person with heavenly wisdom sees the self realistically, with humility. It’s a wisdom born of pain, the ability to step into and share the feelings of others. Kind and gentle people value others above themselves, looking to their interests (Philippians 2:3-4). Those who are wise in God’s eyes, emulate Christ, clothing themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12).

Where is it written that we must act as if we don’t care, as if we are not moved? Where is it written that we should act out of selfish ambition? Well, I am moved and I want a kinder, gentler, wiser nation.

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Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash

Cultivate thankfulness, generosity and kindness

My pastor’s advice to believers who want to go deeper in their faith is to cultivate thankfulness, generosity, and kindness. Of course, you don’t have to believe in God to be thankful, generous, and kind. But if you have been touched by the grace of God, there should be evidence that you have been changed.

The Vine and the Branches

To “cultivate” means to develop a quality or sentiment or to prepare the soil for a crop or garden. The second meaning reminds me of the parable of the vine and the branches. Jesus is the vine and the Father is the gardener. Followers of Jesus are the branches. The branches do not bear fruit alone; they only bear fruit if they remain attached to the vine. We remain in the vine when we keep the words of Jesus in our hearts and keep his command to love each other as he loves us.

Jesus wanted his followers to cultivate fruit of the spirit, qualities like kindness and compassion, that flourish when you are deeply rooted in love. When we cultivate good fruit, we “spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere (2 Corinthians 2:14).”

Thankfulness

In a letter to the Colossians (2:7), the apostle Paul wrote, “continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Why do those who have been redeemed by Jesus overflow with thankfulness? Because he touched us and made us whole. Because we were once lost, but now we’re found. Because we were blind, but now we see! Because we have been promised a kingdom that will not be shaken!

As I know too well, it is easy to forget to give thanks when you’re going through something difficult. Paul reminds us to be thankful in all circumstances. No matter how bad things are, do not be anxious. The Lord is always near.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7

Generosity

As a child, I was taught that what you give comes back to you. This is the wisdom of Proverbs 11:25: a person who blesses others will be abundantly blessed. Jesus said, “For if you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give—large or small—will be used to measure what is given back to you (Luke 6:38, Living Bible).”

Even if you are poor and have little to give, God will bless you for giving. Jesus promised that God will provide whatever you need. If you have the means to give and you have no pity on people in need, how can the love of God be in you?

Kindness

Kindness is underrated. A simple act of kindness or a kind word can mean the world to the person who receives it. Kindness is a gift that every person can afford to give. To be kind is to be gentle, caring, considerate, helpful, generous, gracious, merciful and forgiving. Kindness is uplifting and encouraging.

If you have been encouraged by Christ, if you have received any comfort from his love, if you have been touched by his tenderness and compassion, then be like-minded. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2:3-4).”

Kindness is more than just being nice or pleasant. The essence of kindness is the ability to look to the interests of others, to treat other people the way you want to be treated. Let someone else go first. Let someone else have something that you wanted for yourself. Bear with each other. Forgive others for not being perfect just as you are not perfect.

Paul describes the spiritual attire of a person who is dearly loved by God and shows how grateful they are by being kind, compassionate, humble, gentle, forgiving and patient:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – Colossians 3:12-17

Pay it forward

The phrase “pay it forward” is credited to Lily Hardy Hammond who wrote (The garden of delight, 1916), “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.” Long before she coined this phrase, Jesus showed us how to pay his love forward. Be Jesus-minded. Be kind. Be merciful. Be forgiving. See to it that no one misses out on the grace of God.

Reading List
Leviticus 27:30
Proverbs 11:25
Mark 12:41-44
Luke 6:38
Acts 2:46
2 Corinthians 2:14, 9:11
Galatians 6:20
Ephesians 4:32
Philippians 2:1-4; 4:6
Colossians 2:6-7; 3:12-17
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Hebrews 12:28
James 1:7
1 Peter 3:9
1 John 3:17