In honor of World Kindness Day, author Lucinda Secrest McDowell has offered up a selection from her new devotional book Ordinary Graces: Word Gifst for Any Season to inspire us in showing kindness today and in our everyday walk.
We pray that in your acts of kindness, not only will you be serving as the hands and feed of Christ, but that those that experience and witness them will see God great love.
Your own glorious power makes us strong and because of your kindness, our strength increases.
~ Psalm 89:17 CEV
I bought the little wooden sign impulsively—in fact, it seemed to jump off the shelf into my hands—Be Kinder than Necessary.
A few days later I understood why.
I was unkind to someone I care about. Not intentionally, of course. Just a careless word blurted out in a too-harsh tone. But the damage was done.
Fortunately, because the person is full of grace, we were reconciled when I reached out and asked forgiveness. But I was left with a deep, deep desire to somehow pursue kindness as my default reaction to . . . well, everything!
So kindness became my word for the year. I determined to explore every aspect of the word and incorporate every dimension into my soul.
First, I gave the Author of kindness praise and gratitude: “I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us” (Isaiah 63:7 NIV, emphasis added).
Secondly, I clothed myself in kindness: “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way . . . in purity, understanding, patience and kindness” (2 Corinthians 6:3-4, 6 NIV, emphasis added).
Finally, I chose to receive the Lord’s kindness offered to me: “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them” (Hosea 11:4 NIV, emphasis added).
That year is long gone, and I confess I haven’t totally mastered kindness, within or without. But it was a pivotal focus for me, and it changed my life.
Soon after, Parade magazine observed, “Seems like we’re in a bit of a kindness crisis these days,” and sported a full-color cover that read, “Throw Around Like Confetti!” Evidently, half the people in a recent survey said that the practice of kindness had deteriorated in the past ten years.
“There is less kindness in public life, which trickles down and invites people to be less kind in our personal lives,” says psychologist Harriet Lerner. “But kindness is not an ‘extra.’ It’s at the heart of intimacy, connection, self-respect and respect for others.”
Nineteenth-century Scottish pastor John Watson, writing under the pen name Ian Maclaren, once wisely wrote, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
What hard battles are you facing today? Will you receive the Lord’s great kindness extended to you? And then pass it along?
Living a life of radical kindness, a life that others are watching, means owning up to the fact that our lives are messy and uncertain, our roads are crooked. We don’t have it all together. The life of kindness is the authentic life—not the perfect life, and not the predictable life, and hardly the buttoned-up life. To lean into kindness means embracing an honest acknowledgement of our limitations and fears, that we do not have this road trip all figured out.
I’m an imperfect person who sometimes gets it all wrong. But when I make a deliberate decision to seek kindness, I know God strengthens me.
May I extend that strength to others.
My child, I have drawn you in a loving-kindness embrace (see Jeremiah 31:3) so that you might know how powerful kindness is. Will you now spread kindness widely as you live your life? The world is desperate for simple, kind words and deeds. I will fill you so you can overflow.
About the Author:
Lucinda Secrest McDowell is the author of 13 books including Ordinary Graces: Word Gifts for Any Season and Dwelling Places: Words to Live in Every Season?, has contributed to an additional 30 books, and has been published in more than 50 magazines. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, she speaks internationally through her ministry “Encouraging Words.” An award-winning writer who has earned accolades from prominent writers’ conferences and retreats, McDowell directs reNEW—retreat for New England Writing and has also worked in radio broadcasting and on church pastoral staffs. She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in Connecticut. Find her online at EncouragingWords.net.
If you enjoyed Lucinda's writing, you can check out a selection of shareable images/memes and sample chapters from her books at http://www.abingdonpress.com/lucindasecrestmcdowell.