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The Power of Purposeful Kindness

Kindness can be tricky because it's sacrificial. It isn’t just paying for the person behind you in line at Starbucks.

Last week I stepped into line at a convenience store just as a young man with cerebral palsy approached the counter in a motorized wheelchair. The man’s arms were contorted and his words slurred as he asked the cashier a question. She leaned forward, trying to understand.

“Oh!” she said, grasping his question. “No, we don’t have fountain drinks. Would you like a bottle?”

The young man nodded and requested his favorite soft drink, which the woman retrieved from the drink cooler. Even though the man had difficulty with the steps of making his purchase, the other customers remained patient and even jumped in to help when he couldn’t quite reach his wallet. When the transaction was complete, the cashier did something unexpected. She came around the front of the counter and poured the soft drink into the man’s insulated cup — a must in the triple-digit California heat.

“Thank you,” the man said as he wheeled away, “Have a good day, everyone!

All in all, the delay probably lasted less than 10 minutes, but I left feeling like I’d witnessed something special. Everyone there had been bolstered by the cashier’s kindness and had followed suit. It was beautiful to see.

Words vs. deeds

We live in a world that celebrates kindness. “Be kind” is stitched on pillows and slapped on apparel. But while the message of kindness is all around us, it can be rare to see true kindness in action. We may even see the opposite — people becoming frustrated and rude — even Christians attacking one another over minor disagreements.

While kindness may be a popular idea, living it out can be tricky. That’s because true kindness is sacrificial. It isn’t just paying for the person behind you in line at Starbucks (although that is kind); it’s also going out of your way to serve, overlooking offenses and forgiving grievances. Consider Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” These words were spoken in the context of church unity and reveal the sacrificial aspects of showing kindness.

Be tenderhearted. That’s what I saw in the cashier as she did all she could to make the young man’s experience easier. And the next part is even more difficult — forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. As believers, our kindness emulates a God who showed us kindness by allowing His Son to die on our behalf.

Be kind on purpose

Intentional kindness is powerful. I wrote about this in “Practice Non-Random Acts of Kindness“:

“A random act of kindness, though it may deliver a quick high, has little potential for furthering relationships or building the kingdom. Deliberate acts of kindness, on the other hand, do the good that Paul speaks of in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: ‘Encourage one another and build each other up.’”

As I witnessed the cashier’s kindness and patience, I was pulled out of my own me-centered routine. I, and those around me, were caught up in the moment and prompted to help as well. Kindness is powerful. Romans 2:4 tells us that the purpose of God’s kindness is to lead us to repentance. Maybe that’s why we respond to it the way we do. Kindness puts God’s character and nature on display.

So here’s my challenge: The next time you see a card or journal or pillow or t-shirt with the words “Be Kind,” think about God’s deep, sacrificial kindness toward you and thank Him. Then think of a way you can show that same forbearing, forgiving, intentional kindness to someone in your life; maybe someone you find difficult to love. Then watch how God uses that kindness to reveal himself in big ways. You might even receive an unexpected blessing in return.

Copyright 2021 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Suzanne Gosselin
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She graduated from Multnomah University with a degree in journalism and biblical theology. She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, and her four young children: Josiah, Sadie, Amelia and Jackson. When she’s not hanging out with her kids, Suzanne loves a good cup of coffee, conversation with friends, musical theater and a trip to the beautiful California coast.

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