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Be Kind for No Reason

Image: Kelly Sikkema

While driving across rural northeast Ohio, I came across a sign in front of a quaint country church that made me reflect a bit more deeply about acting kindly. Kindness is a virtue promoted in most world religions, Christianity being the one which I am most familiar.  However, kindness seems to be unfamiliar territory for many who claim to be part of the Christian tradition. I believe the reason for this could be found in the second part of our title: for no reason. 

A short definition of kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. We all have opportunities to demonstrate these qualities if we so choose. But if we sincerely explore our motives that give rise to these gestures, we may surprise ourselves and desire some modifications in our approach to being kind. The sign says, “Be Kind for No Reason.” There is usually a reason for everything we do. We exercise to stay healthy. We eat the proper foods (mostly) to keep our bodies from having to work harder to maintain all the systems that keep us alive and alert. We read various books and articles or listen to podcasts to stay informed on what is happening in our world or just for entertainment. We take walks in nature to help destress our busy lives.  

So if all that we do has a reason, kindness must have a reason too. That rural church just did not have enough room on the sign to list the reason(s) for being kind. Perhaps. But maybe they are onto something that is beyond the surface.  

When someone attempts to be kind for no apparent reason, what often is our first response:  what do they want? We get defensive and reject the kind gesture and interpret the interaction as a disguised request to take advantage of us in some way or use our influence so they may advance in a career or relationship. In these interactions we do not reap the benefits of kindness because we are entrenched in discovering the reason behind the gesture of kindness which we are interpreting as manipulation. If we interpret kind acts toward us in this manner it leads to stress, mistrust and, eventually, loneliness and isolation.

If kindness is a Christian virtue that can be practiced for no reason, then what do the Scriptures say about it.The Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church was a scathing reproach of their unkind behavior toward one another among other things. In the familiar thirteenth chapter of the letter he equates kindness with love. Ahh, you say. The reason for kindness is love! Well not exactly.

If we claim love as a reason, then we have to ask why is love a reason and how do we love this person and is our love based on some aspect of advantage or attractiveness in this person. Once again we are placing qualifications on the kindness we impart to others.  In the Psalms love is described as unfailing. No matter the situation, love does not stop nor is it given only in certain “favorable” conditions. It is absolute. There is no reason for love and kindness, it just is a positive attribute to be shared with others.  

Being kind for no reason is an application of faith. When we show kindness we never know for sure the outcome of our action. We may experience rejection or as mentioned above be held in suspicion of underhanded motives. These are definite possibilities. But, what if that person  whom you approach with a kind word or gesture is in a state of depression because they feel the world in which they live is not kind or caring. We just don’t know what others are experiencing. That may seem a bit dramatic but just turn on the news – people are hurting.

The Psalmist in describing the salvation of the Israelites from Egypt tells us: “When the Red Sea saw you, O God, its waters looked and trembled! The sea quaked to its very depths…Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters—a pathway no one knew was there!” (Psalm 77:16, 19 NLT). People are searching for that pathway that will lead them through the deep waters of despair to freedom and a kind act done for no reason may be the gateway to the holy corridor of love that is available to all.

So go ahead, be kind for no reason and see what happens as a result of your lovingkindness.

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