A child's first instinct is not to be kind to others. Ever seen a 2-year-old when someone else wants the toy she wants? She doesn't go over and politely ask to play. The best case scenario is she'll go over and take the toy out of the other child's hand. The worst case scenario is she'll go over and take the toy and hit the other child with it.
Kindness is not a character quality that comes naturally to most people. It has to be taught and nurtured. The Bible tells us kindness is a fruit of the spirit. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23). That means that it's something that comes from God. It's something that's difficult to achieve on our own.
Those verses also tell us something else important about kindness -- it comes from within. Kindness to others is an overflow of what's in our hearts. If our hearts are following Jesus, then kindness flows from that. But if our hearts are busy chasing after things that aren't important to God, then it will be hard to find kindness.
It's not hard to teach our kids to be kind to their friends. Most kids will figure out that if you're nice to others, then they will be your friends. It's when we run across those people who are difficult to get along with that kindness becomes more difficult. Yet, Jesus was specific about how we are treat people, even those with whom we don't get along. "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).
Proverbs 25:21-22 puts it this way: "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you." Being kind to others, even those who don't like us, is a way to show others God's love.
Being kind isn't always easy, but it is the thing that God calls us to do. Teaching our kids to let God help them show kindness to others is important to God, so it needs to be important to us.
- Show your kids an apple, an orange, a bunch of grapes and a banana. Ask them how they would tell a banana tree from a grapevine or an orange tree from an apple tree. They could tell by the frui the tree bears. Explain to your kids that we are like the fruit trees. People can tell we are Christ-followers by the way we act -- the fruit we bear. Read Galatians 5:22-23. Talk about how kindness is one of the "fruits" by which people know we follow Jesus. Talk about ways you can be kind to others.
- Make kindness a priority. Correct unkind behavior in your kids when it happens. Require an apology when your kids are unkind to someone. Look for opportunities to reward your kids when you see them being kind to others.
- Help your kids see the good in difficult people. Remind your kids that no matter what someone else does, God wants us to be kind to others. Our actions aren't based on how others act toward us. They're based on what God says. Pray with your kids and ask God to help them see others as He sees them. Remind your kids God loves everyone -- even people who are mean to us.
- Model kindness. Look for opportunities to shower others with kindness. Go out of your way to show kindness. Your kids are watching what you do as well as what you say.
When we tap into God's power and lean on Him to do what He asks, we'll find that being kind to others will begin to come naturally. The more we practice it, the more of a habit it will become.
People will be able to recognize us by the fruit of kindness we bear.