Recently, a young married woman asked me if I could tell her any tips for keeping a marriage strong. While any strong marriage is full of highs and lows, its foundation can be strengthened with the regular habits of kindness. My husband of 32 years is one of the kindest men I know. Some of the patterns that have made our marriage strong were unspoken.
This thought of kindness has been rolling around in my mind for some time. Way before the craziness of 2020, I have been struck by the chaos of life around me. Sometimes the very best response to someone who has been unkind, who is angry, who disagrees with me in all areas, who has cheated me or is just rude is simply kindness. The best response may be a kind word or action. While this might seem uncomplicated and entirely too easy, it is just that. In my attempts to practice kindness in the last year to both strangers and those who I do life with regularly, I am finding the magic.
I have been the witness to kindness. I remember…
- An important man I know sitting on the curb in his dress suit speaking to a homeless man who did not know his name, but was grateful for the offer of a meal, but more importantly, the dignity of a listening ear.
- The strong nurse who helped me to stand the morning after my first C-section
- The stunning garden roses my husband gave me recently.
- The long hug of a friend when I could not stop crying
- The strong arms of my neighbor carrying my 85 pound collie home
- Words of encouragement when I felt like a failure
- The hug of a young foster boy that I tutor on a random afternoon given suddenly with no words
- The $100 pressed into my hand from a well-known pastor and his wife when I was waitressing my way through college
- The loan of a guitar when I could not afford a guitar or lessons, but desperately wanted to learn to play
- A new-to-me camera thrust into my hands when I expressed to my fiancé that the first thing I wanted to save for once I started work after college
- The many times my mother held the dirt stained hand of a woman or child on the mission field as she spoke to them about Jesus
- My father’s response to a call for help when the phone rang in the middle of the night. (He was a pastor.)
- My husband bending down to listen respectfully to an older person who wanted to tell him a story.
- My daughter Katie holding an orphan child in India on her lap
- My son Joseph treating a special needs peer with dignity
- My son Joshua spending the day playing with a young special needs child who needed a friend
- My daughter Mikayla reaching in practical ways to love on her international college friends
- The early morning my mother went to heaven and my oldest son waited for Chick-fil-A to open at 6AM so he could bring the tired family a tray of fresh nuggets
My mind is full of times where kindness touched my life.
In my marriage my husband and I practice honoring each other. As we walk that out practically, it often means not saying negative things to each other or about each other. In a world that can often be unkind and cruel, we have each other’s back. I speak well of him in public and private. This is what I practice when he is with me and when he is not. I also practice thanking him for taking such good care of me and our family. I tell others about some of the things that I like best about him. The truth is many see him through the exceptional comments they hear about him in my words. If you are a wife, you have the power to build up your husband as well as tear him down.
In Proverbs 30:11, 12 Solomon’s mother encourages him about what kind of wife he should pursue. She says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her, … She does him good and not harm, all the days of her life.” These verses force the question of what result are the words I speak about my husband? Proverbs 12: 4 talks about the wife who brings shame to her husband is like rottenness in his bones. Clearly, our words are powerful in advancing our husbands as well as destroying him.
Words are also mighty in the lives of our children. One of the most questions that roll around in my head asks, “Are my words life-giving?” If they are not, how can I transform them in to powerful, poignant words?
In Proverbs 14:1 “Every wise woman encourages and builds up her family, but a foolish woman over time will tear it down by her own actions. My words and my actions must be motivated by kindness.
Kindness is a robust approach to each day. It’s preeminent power to radically alter the course of a day or even a life propels me to actively practice being a kinder version of myself. Kind people are magnetic. Truly the kindness I saw in my husband’s behavior as I watched him from afar was one of my favorite things about him. It is still one of his greatest assets. On our first date we discovered that we were fiercely loyal to people we loved. We were both keen on kindness. These similarities bonded us.
Whether you are naturally thoughtful and kind to others or whether it is a quality you are working on each day, don’t underestimate the power of kindness in your words and actions. As you look around, notice the ineffectiveness of insults, bullying and selfishness. So many self-promoting responses are impotent in creating the change we want to see in others and the change so desperately needed in ourselves.
Recently, I came across a new book The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn. She challenges each of us to select a person in our lives who can be the recipient of our kindness. Shaunti has determined that 89% of relationships improve after completing this bold dare. I love this thought. I can think of a person with whom I need a better relationship. Can you? Here’s the challenge:
- Say nothing negative about that person – either to them or about them to anyone else.
- Each day find one positive thing you can praise or affirm about that person and tell them and tell someone else.
- Each day do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.
Whether you would like to improve the relationship with a child, a spouse, a parent, in-laws, a neighbor, a co-worker or a friend… the kindness challenge promises to increase the positives. Try it. In the journey, you might find that boosting your words and actions of kindness will change you for the better.
Kindness is powerful. When practiced fiercely, it might even turn out to be your superpower.