If we’re honest with ourselves, “kindness” is one of the fruits of the Spirit that is easy to skip over. Faithfulness can be difficult. Self-control has its obvious challenges. Love and peace are big asks. But kindness is something we often take for granted.
But kindness, like any quality worth having, can be difficult.
After all, it can be easier to snip at your spouse’s weaknesses than to take a step back and accept your spouse, shortcomings and all. Snide remarks often come faster than words of affection. And selfishly expecting your spouse to pick up the slack can sadly be a default reaction, instead of selflessly going the extra mile without expecting acknowledgment. When kindness does become an intentional part of your everyday life, though, the results can lead to a marriage that’s sustained by this oft-overlooked trait.
In a sermon on this particular fruit of the Spirit, Tim McCarthy, a pastor at North Langley Community Church, defines kindness as “a costly and unconditional commitment to be a blessing to everyone and everything.”
When you see this definition of kindness in action in the day-to-day, then, you see an acceptance of your spouse, a commitment to build them up, an attitude of service to your spouse and an ability to sustain a marriage that lasts a lifetime.
1. Kindness accepts
In a Focus on the Family broadcast entitled “Making Marriage a Joyful Journey,” Dr. Adrian Rogers says this:
“You say, ‘But what about the faults of my mate? What about the failures of my mate? What about the weaknesses of my mate?’ Accept them. She has to accept yours. Have you ever thought that your wife’s faults or flaws or weaknesses or idiosyncrasies may be God’s gift to you to help you to develop some character on the other side? Opposites attract. Her lateness may be God’s gift to help develop your patience.”
Kindness doesn’t keep track of every flaw and count it against another person. Having an attitude of true kindness enables you to forgive your spouse because you’re first forgiven by a kind God.
“God’s reign in Christ is kind,” McCarthy explains. “Kind toward us and kind through us.” If He can forgive us for our many flaws, we can certainly extend that same courtesy to the person who sees our deepest flaws every day.
2. Kindness encourages
Melissa is keenly aware of how much her husband, Jack, does for her and their family, but unfortunately she is often in the company of friends who take turns berating their husbands’ shortcomings – sometimes even in front of them. As a result, she makes a pointed effort to find opportunities to praise her husband – when she’s with him, when they’re in a group and even when he’s not there.
In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller clearly outlines the power your words have over your spouse:
“We said that if everyone else says you’re ugly, and your spouse says you’re beautiful, you feel beautiful, because your spouse’s words have that kind of power. But that means the reverse is also true. If everyone else says you are beautiful and your spouse says you’re ugly, you will feel ugly. Your spouse’s opinion of you can be a terrible weapon. Early in your marriage, you will realise what power you have to hurt your spouse. You will know his or her sensitivities like no one else. And cutting remarks from you will go deeper than any knife.”
In all of your interactions, it’s best to keep Ephesians 4:29 at the front of your mind: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
3. Kindness serves
Since serving others is costly and unconditional, kindness can clearly be seen in the selfless service you offer your spouse.
“To have a marriage that sings requires a Spirit-created ability to serve, to take yourself out of the centre, to put the needs of others ahead of your own,” Timothy Keller writes.
Of course, he adds, no one is able to do this on their own. Eventually our ability to serve runs out. We get tired, we start to look at it not as unconditional, but as contractual and, eventually, we get resentful. This is why it’s so important to make sure it’s a “Spirit-created ability.” In order for our kindness to be manifested as service, we need to be in tune with God.
“So many relationships are struggling simply because people have forgotten how to be kind to one another,” McCarthy says. “I need to be honest with myself, I think we all need to be honest and say that given the stress and the difficulties and the challenges of life, as well as our own selfishness, it is impossible to sustain a consistent attitude of kindness in all my relationships if it’s just up to me.”
4. Kindness sustains
When practiced on a daily basis, kindness – like any other consistent discipline – becomes habit. And when kindness becomes so ingrained in everything we do, it has the power to sustain. It’s something McCarthy and his wife, Cyndi, have found to be absolutely essential in their marriage:
“Kindness is a commitment that Cyndi and I have made in our marriage to one another. We know it was kindness that first sparked our love and it’s the thing that is going to help us go the distance in our marriage. And it’s lived out in the most practical ways: sharing housework and homework, encouraging each other’s callings, notes of appreciation, words of encouragement, and never cutting each other down whether in private or in public. Of course, not letting disagreements fester into bitterness, but working things out so that we both win. Cyndi’s kindness to me is one of the huge reasons why I’m still deeply in love with her after 19 years of marriage.”
Although kindness can get overshadowed by other fruits of the Spirit, don’t let it be an attribute that’s lost in your marriage. Make kindness an intentional part of your everyday interactions with your spouse and see the difference it makes.
*Names changed to protect privacy