“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant.”
Love is kind in word.
Years ago I memorized Proverbs 31 (rabbit trail fodder, indeed!), and portions of that text have stuck with me. At least, several times a week, this verse comes to mind:
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
This is the wording I memorized from the King James Version. Both the ESV and the NASB translate the latter portion of Proverbs 31:26, “the teaching of kindness is on her tongue,” and The Message paraphrases it this way, “When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.”
Although there are some variations within the way different interpreters have chosen to render the text, the idea is clear — her kindness is connected with her speech. As this text comes to mind, it has been the “law of kindness” portion that really sinks in for me.
Law, here is not the definition “you must obey the law,” as in a codified set of legal restrictions and/or permissions. Rather, the law refers, as in this dictionary definition, to “a statement of an order or relation of phenomena that so far as is known is invariable under the given conditions.” In other words, kindness is pretty much always and only what comes out of “her” mouth.
Being kind doesn’t mean you can’t correct or rebuke at times when it is appropriate. But it is to be done in kindness. As Galatians 6:1 reminds us,
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. “
We often think of this verse in our dealings with other adults, but when dealing with our children we would sometimes prefer to react with something along the lines of, “if my child is caught in sin, I’ll show him whose boss and put him in his place!” For some of us, our children are our brothers and sisters and Christ (or we may hold to a covenant view of children), and so the application of restoring a brother is quite literal.
Kindness in word can offer a word of encouragement, it can empower, and it can speak corrective words encased in gentleness.
Love is kindness in action.
Kindness flows from within
Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit working in our lives. Some translations use the word gentleness, while others use kindness to describe one of the fruits of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22. It also seems that kindness is a disposition woven through each of the fruits of the Spirit, and through each of the descriptions of 1 Corinthians 13 love.
I think again of “the law of kindness” like the laws of nature, kindness is the fundamental essence of what comes forth from this woman’s tongue, and by extension, her actions. As mothers, what if kindness were our default setting?
Kindness isn’t earned.
In regards to our children, it’s often easy to slip into the thinking that they must merit our kindness by their good behavior, by controlling their emotions, or a by putting on a good public performance. But love is kind, and when we seek to hand out love as a reward, we have ceased to truly love.
Kindness must flow from us, even when we think our children least deserve it. As Ann Voskamp has put it, “Just for today, I will ask for His grace, the moment when I am most repelled by a child’s behavior, that is my sign to draw the very closest to that child.”
To bestow conditional kindness is to do our children a serious disservice. When we do so, we are teaching them, among other things, that love is shallow, not kind. We are teaching them their moral behavior is the key to being loved and accepted. If God did that to us, we would all be lost.
While Scripture does convey a sense of the benefits of obedience, we are not to give or withhold our kindness based on someone else’s deserving of it. In fact, Scripture paradoxically calls us to love even our enemies. Most certainly, our children are not (normally) to be placed in this category, and how much more should we be eager to extend kind love to them?
To love, be kind.
For all our talk about “love,” it’s can be challenging to actually put it into action. What does love actually do? In reverse, what does kindness do? What is the kind thing to say in a situation? What would be the kindest response to a temper tantrum, or a cup that fell on the floor, or a dress that got ink stains on it? Is it kind? If the answer is “yes,” than there is a good chance it’s loving, too.
Kindness isn’t merely happens when the day is sunny, and my little girls are happy in pretty white dresses. Kindness is what happens in the presence of unkindness.
Of course, kindness isn’t only reactive. It’s proactive, too–going out of the way to show kindness, both on happy and discouraging days. It remembers the little things that light up little eyes, and makes and effort to show love by doing them. It sees the child overwhelmed by the crowds, and goes out of the way to reassure him that Mommy is a safe haven if needed. It shows respect, even to a child, when shaming is the expected response. Kindness is a deep, diverse, and broad concept, certainly not having enough space to engage with the full definition here.
More than isolated incidents, kindess is a way of life — an atmosphere of Christian living that should be conveyed in every personal relationship.
The gentleness of a mother of young children was so well-recognized, that Paul used it to illustrate his gentleness among the Thessalonians:
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. (1 Thessalonians 2:7)
This is what I would love for my kids to look back and say of me, “We were gentle to ___, kind of like Mommy was to us when we were little/babies.”
I don’t know that we as a society could say that mothers of young children are known for their gentleness, but perhaps as we learn and grow together to cultivate gentleness, this can be the reputation of mothers within Christian community.
Others in this Series:
- Introduction: 1 Corinthians 13 Meditations for Moms
- Love is Patient
- Love is Kind
- Love Does Not Envy or Boast
- Love Does Not Insist on Its Owns Way
- Love Does Not Keep Records of Wrongs
- Love Rejoices in the Truth, Not Evil
- Love Bears All Things
- Love Believes All Things
- Love Hopes All Things
- Love Endures All Things