About a year ago, I wrote about kindness in Kindness Matters. I challenged myself to intentionally practice kindness toward myself and others. Today I want to respond to the challenge I accepted that day.

I find it most difficult to be genuinely kind to myself. Sometimes I listen to the things I say to myself and I am shocked! I would never say those things to someone else. Changing my internal dialogue is an ongoing struggle but one I am determined to win. It feels odd and slightly embarrassing to speak positively to my inner me. But I forge ahead knowing it will make a huge difference in the way I relate to the people around me.

What does this look like? I regularly force myself to look in the mirror and compliment myself. It might be about my appearance, a job well done, a character quality I exhibited, an act of kindness performed, a secret kept. I speak life to myself rather than death.

Tonight I read a post on Facebook. It said, “It’s amazing that a woman will look at the sky and proclaim the glory and beauty of God’s creation, but look in the mirror and can’t see it there even though he created both.”

Kindness toward others has taken the form of saying nothing at all when opportunity arises to speak negative words. I notice how often we engage in conversation about others that is not life giving. I can’t help but wonder if I am the subject of conversations like this when I am not in the room. I don’t want to be torn apart in this way, so I work very hard at not doing that to others. Of course, I am not always successful, but it is still my goal.

Another practice I am implementing, particularly with my husband, is open conversation when the cloud of irritation builds on the horizon. For instance, a few days before our daughter’s wedding, I could feel myself getting really irritated with him. He had done nothing…YET. I had to acknowledge that within myself and be bold enough to bring it out into the open. You see, he was really busy with work obligations the week of the wedding. I feared that when he was available to help with the final details, he would be uninformed and not helpful. I was already irritated about something that hadn’t even happened and that I held the key to avoiding.

As we talked, I realized the only way to avoid disaster was to fill him in on details that he not only did not know, but couldn’t know if I didn’t tell him. He can’t be responsible for what he doesn’t know. It made all the difference in my ability to be kind and for him to return kindness when we had open conversation.

As difficult as it may be to believe, my ability to thrive in relationships depends more on how I treat others than how I am treated. I continually find that when I treat others with kindness and respect, I am respected and treated kindly in return.

Sunday morning as I prepared for our worship service, I read Ephesians 4. This was the next text in our current sermon series, “Tethered.” Visit here to listen to all the messages in this series. I was arrested by the first few verses of the chapter, amazed at how well they fit with this post.

Read: Ephesians 4:1-6

I was especially taken by verse two.

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults, because of your love.

Ephesians 4:2

This is the hardest part about being kind to others. It is so easy to notice the faults in others and then just get annoyed and reject the person all together. Rather, Paul instructs us to make allowance for the other person’s faults. That means when I notice areas where someone really messes it up, I’m going to give her some slack, make room for his goofy, annoying mannerisms, overlook the mess and see the best.

So, I’m curious. What part of being kind is the most difficult for you? Does it make sense that thriving in relationships depends more on you than it does on others? How can you improve one relationship this week through kindness?

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

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