I’ve learned over the past few years that there’s a huge difference between being nice and being kind. Cruel people can have moments of niceness, but kindness is a character trait. Kind people are nice even when they don’t want to be, even when it doesn’t benefit them. Nice people are nice with purpose, they have ulterior motives. They are nice to get something or to make someone like them or to get their way. Those who are just being nice, will always show their true colors eventually. You’ll see their true self when you no longer benefit them or serve their purpose. You’ll see it when you disagree or refuse to give them their way. Niceness is a selfish trait; kindness comes from the heart.
My ex had wonderful moments of niceness. I don’t think he was ever kind. I confused the two. I often saw him as kind when he was crying and apologizing for treating me so badly. I still have trouble differentiating between the two when he begins what appears to be a remorseful apology for things he said or did. I have learned that when it’s just words and no action, it is not done in kindness, it’s done in selfishness. It’s done for the sake of seeming nice so that he can get back in my good graces and our relationship will not be broken. No changes are actually made to make sure the behavior doesn’t repeat, it’s all just nice, pretty words.
Recently, he said some pretty horrific things to me. Things he has never said before. Things that attacked my character and hurt me horribly. The words still hurt even though I know they aren’t true. He apologized later, crying and telling me how sorry he was; that he didn’t mean them and didn’t know why he said them. His apology was nice, it was worded well and seemed real. He has apologized a couple more times for his words that night, I know he feels bad about what he said, but does he feel bad enough to change or just bad enough to feel guilty?
My boys are struggling with their relationship with him. His lies, deceit, and general lack of not being there for them when they needed him have hurt them terribly. He’s being nice and texting them I love yous and I miss yous, but where is the kindness? They don’t want or care for nice, they are looking for change, they are looking for a man who is kind to them. They are looking for him to be more than the Dad who texts nice words and occasionally asks them if they want to have dinner. Nice may get you a superficial relationship, but it takes kindness if you want more.
What does kindness look like? Well, for one, it takes consideration of others. That can often look like sacrifice. Putting your desires aside for the needs of another. Kindness is a choice we make, a lifestyle we choose, doing for others, taking care of others, and helping others. Let’s look at what the Bible says about kindness.
Kindness is listed as one of the fruits of the spirit along with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What are the fruits of the spirit? What does that mean? Our fruits are the results of the life we live, they’re the outpouring of our thoughts, deeds, and actions. Our fruits are our harvest; we reap what we plant. If we allow the Spirit to work in us, we will example those qualities above. A true walk with God, a relationship with Him, will make us want to live with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and kindness. We will want to be kind. Our fruits, good or bad, will allow others to recognize us for who we are and who we serve.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.Matthew 17-20
The Bible also talks about God’s kindness to us. It doesn’t say He’s nice, it says He’s kind. The Bible also says it’s important for us to be kind if we want to stay in God’s favor. His kindness is meant to be shared with others. When we accept His kindness, we are to repent of our unkindness, and show that same compassion to those around us. It’s not meant for us to thrive on God’s kindness and then be mean or cruel to others. We are not to take advantage of the kindness and forgiveness God gives; we are meant to share it.
Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. Romans 11:22
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4
Kindness is an important part of being a Christian and of exampling Christ in your witness to others. Just being nice is not enough. Kindness shows you care about others, it’s not about being polite, it’s about true concern for people. It’s a belief that God created and loves everyone and that all should be shown that love. Kindness is being nice backed up with action. It’s not just words, it’s work and deeds and effort. It’s a trait you practice and strive to have, not one you just say you have. Kindness requires change in your life, and with no change there is no kindness.
People who are cruel to others are not remembered for their moments of being nice, even if those moments are greater than the cruel ones; they are still remembered for their cruelty. I have recently heard stories of how the man who abused me was also cruel to others, making women cry and men angry. He hurt more than his family. He has not been a kind person, though he has moments of being extremely nice. With someone new, he can be the nicest guy you’ve ever met, saying and doing things that seem kind on the surface. He’s very charming. He wants to be that guy people consider kind, but he’s just not willing to do the work to actually be kind. Because of this, he is not known for those moments of niceness; the legacy he is leaving is one of selfishness and cruelty. Without a life change to kindness, that’s how he will always be remembered.
Kindness is not an easy trait to live. Letting go of the anger, selfishness, and expectations of others is hard. Kindness is given freely, and that’s difficult to do when we are constantly bombarded with the ideals that everything has a price, or we are owed something. But let’s all try to live out kindness in a world filled with nice people. Be the standout. Strive to be kind; strive to have more meaningful relationships and for true life change. Give up the self-gratifying idea of niceness and choose the Christ-centered trait of kindness. Show God to those around you by living in Him rather than self and bear good fruit.