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Responding To Unkindness With Kindness

Updated: May 25, 2020

By sis Bernice Loh

According to the Oxford Dictionary, an unkind person is one who is inconsiderate and/or harsh to others Examples include: An inconsiderate driver who swerved suddenly into your lane OR A friend who just told a cruel joke at your expense in front of everyone.

When met with unkindness, a knee jerk reaction may be to respond in kind. This is probably because we may seek justice for ourselves by inflicting the same, if not more, hurt that we have been dealt. Using the examples mentioned above, knee jerk reactions may include: Speeding alongside the inconsiderate driver to make angry hand gestures at him OR Responding to the friend with a subtle put down of your own.

In the face of unkindness, we may feel anger, bitterness, an urge to backbite and loudly cry foul over the unjust treatment. However, in Ephesians 4:31-32 we are told to put away these feelings and instead respond with kindness and forgiveness. Why?

Here are some benefits of kindness: (i) To de escalate and/or prevent further escalation of a bad situation (Proverbs 15:1). (ii) Because God has done the same for us when we did nothing to deserve it (Titus 3:3-5). (iii) It is for God, and not us, to exact justice against the unjust (Romans 12:19).

In view of these benefits, it is timely to re evaluate our understanding of Kindness.

1. Kindness Is Giving the benefit of the doubt 1 Corinthians 13:7 says that love “believeth all things”. This is not to say that we should believe all things blindly without examination (Proverbs 14:15). However, in the absence of a full understanding of the situation, it is expedient to give the benefit of the doubt, instead of assuming the worst. There is a chance we could have misunderstood a person’s actions. The unkind act may not have been an intentional act of unkindness in the first place.

2. Kindness Is Not about being silent towards wrongdoing While being questioned by the high priest, Jesus was slapped by the High Priest’s officer Jesus did not physically retaliate, but neither did he remain silent about the unjust treatment, saying “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?” (John 18:22-23). Being kind is not always about all smiles and pleasant conversations. It does not mean that we should ignore the fact that we have been wronged and pretend we are not affected by the unjust treatment.

3. Kindness Is Not saying only the good stuff Sometimes it requires us to have an upfront conversation with the person, about how his actions made us feel. We sometimes find this difficult to do, especially with friends and relatives, because we wish to avoid conflict. However, there is value in righteous reproof. Reproof will hurt, but it is an “excellent oil” (healing agent) for the recipient (Psalms 141:5). Also, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:6)

Reproof, when delivered respectfully and constructively, can help one to recognise the folly of his ways and to want to turn from them. Abigail’s gentle reproof stopped David from executing his plan of revenge and bloodshed. And David was thankful to God for sending Abigail to him (1 Samuel 25:32-33).

4. Kindness Helps to lead people to Christ The kindness, forbearance and patience of God is meant to lead man to repentance (Rom 2:4). Similarly, when we respond to unkindness with unexpected kindness, it can lead the perpetrator to re-examine his unkind ways and maybe turn away from them one day. We may also have the opportunity to win over the lost (who may be the unkind person himself, or the by-standing witnesses).

Conversely, when we respond to unkindness in kind, we may push the lost further away from Christ. Imagine if we went for tracting and the person who opened the door was a colleague whom we had been gossiping about. Would we feel comfortable evangelising to him or her after what we have done? How would he or her view us, and view the God that we hope to tell him or her about?

There is a saying which goes, “Nice Guys Finish Last”. The world may associate kindness with weakness, and hold the virtue in low regard. However, responding with kindness takes far more strength, wisdom and forbearance as compared to unleashing unkindness. And there are much more benefits to be reaped from a kind response as compared to an unkind one. May we encourage and influence one another to be kind, always.

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