Real Life Leading #50
Are You Tough Enough To Be Kind?
It’s no secret to those that know me that I’m a huge fan of the Irish rock band U2: my older brother and my soccer coach introduced me to their music when I was in high school and college, and I haven’t stopped listening to them since. Their most recent album has a song called ‘13 (There Is A Light)’ which contains one of my now-favorite lines, and it’s the theme for today’s post: “Are you tough enough to be kind?” We don’t normally associate toughness and kindness, but we should. Let’s talk about why.
First, the Bible commands us to be kind in many different places, and when it does, the kindness is often associated with love and with forgiveness. For example, Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We’re commanded to be kind and forgive, but forgiveness is difficult: it takes courage and a willingness to be hurt again due to our tender-hearted nature. This is where the toughness comes in.
Second, ‘tough’ doesn’t mean only an ability to fight back; often it means having the inner courage to simply walk away. As I tell my high school students: any toddler can pitch a fit, any child can throw a punch, any animal can fight back on instinct. It takes a reasoning mind and mature control of one’s emotions to be tough enough to be kind, to turn the other cheek and walk away.
Being ‘tough’ also means having the courage to stand up for what is right, to help those who are oppressed or marginalized, and to say things that may be difficult to hear. Earlier in Ephesians 4 (the chapter quoted above), Paul writes that we are to “speak the truth in love,” which means that we don’t shy away from difficult conversations: it just means we have them gently, with a tender heart, being concerned for the other person’s well-being. Now, don’t mistake ‘nice’, which might be unwilling to have tough conversations out of a desire to spare someone else’s feelings, with ‘kindness’, which would have the conversation in the most loving way possible. In the long run, having the hard conversation is the loving, kind thing to do, even if it’s difficult in that moment.
A good friend of mine named Phil Taylor recently said that, “Kindness is the practical outworking of love,” and I haven’t ever found it said any better than that. When we are kind, we are showing love to others. We are reflecting Christ’s love for us to the world around us, and we are thus drawing others closer to Jesus as well. This is not a new concept, nor is it one specific to Christianity. Many of us grew up listening to and reading Aesop’s Fables, one of the most famous of which is ‘The Lion and the Mouse’. In that story, in which a tiny mouse was once shown kindness by a lion only to repay it later despite the lion’s earlier condescension, there is a wonderful reminder about kindness. Aesop wrote, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
In our world today which is broken and strained by anger and hatred and strife, kindness is revolutionary. Kindness is powerful. Kindness can change the world. And no act of kindness, however small, will ever be wasted. So today, show kindness to others; be tough enough to be kind. Because even if you think your kindness was unappreciated, you can be sure that it was not wasted.
“Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.” - Proverbs 21:21 (ESV)
If you’d like to learn more about how kindness can change the world, be sure to email me or follow me on social media. I’ll be sending out updates and also making some pretty big announcements about upcoming events where you can learn more!
Action Step: Today, commit to doing at least two acts of kindness during your day: one to a loved one, and one to a stranger. If they ask why, just tell them you’re being kind and ask them to pass it on.