For years, educators have discussed whether or not you can teach character such as kindness, love, joy, etc. Nursing schools are discovering how to teach care and compassion to its students. Navy Seals are trained to be resilient. Can you learn to be kinder or gentler? If we can’t grow in these inner qualities, then transformation is a myth. I believe we can learn how to radically change our lives and experience life to the fullest.
One of my seminary professor’s favorite lines was, “Act your way into a new way of feeling.” As we do kind deeds or practice patience, those qualities begin to develop in our being. In other words, as we act kind we become kind. Practicing the spiritual disciplines helps transform us into the likeness of Jesus.
One of the ways the world discovers the love of God is through the kind acts of Christians. God told the Israelites they would become a great nation and bless others. Those who receive grace are expected to give grace. Believers have discovered as you practice kindness, you become more aware of opportunities to minister to those around you. Live in the now and plenty of opportunities of exhibiting will abound.
Here are a few spiritual disciplines that can help you learn and develop the spiritual fruit of kindness.
1. Acts of kindness. The movie “Pay it Forward,” (2000) sparked the imagination of the world to make a difference by doing random acts of kindness. The possibilities are endless and acts of kindness don’t have to be expensive. You might write a thank you letter to a coworker, buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you, say an encouraging word to the checkout person at the store, or buy a meal and give to a homeless person, or make cupcakes and give to a neighbor. For further ideas, purchase a book on random acts of kindness or check out this website :
2. Hospitality. Hospitality is not about impressing others with your home or culinary talents. It’s about welcoming others in the name of Christ. Hospitality is serving others and paying attention to their needs. George Hunter in The Celtic Way of Evangelism sites hospitality as one of the key strategies Saint Patrick used to convert the Celtic people. Inviting people over for a meal doesn’t have to take weeks of planning. Call friends and neighbors for a potluck meal, or ask them to bring their leftovers and share a meal. The main point is to be together and experience sacred space. Develop a list of conversation starters to help get to know one another. There are also a number of products on the market for conversational starter questions.
3. Intercessory prayer. Create a weekly list of people for whom you will pray. Each day set aside a few minutes to pray for those on your list. Use your drive time to work to pray for others. Ask God, “What is your desire for this person? How should I pray for him/her.” Use the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) as a template for praying for others. As you pray for your own needs, remember others who have similar needs around the world. Pray for those who are antagonistic toward you. Praying for others changes our heart toward them and helps us extend grace to others.
4. Compassion. The purpose of compassion is to be a healing presence of Jesus. It is identifying with others, particularly those who are hurting. Jesus was compassionate toward prostitutes, beggars, women, the sick, and government tax collectors. (Matthew 15:32, Mark 1:41) Identify who are the disenfranchised in your community. Research how you could walk alongside them. Find ways to encourage and support those who are struggling or hurting. Financially support an orphan. Help a widow with her needs around the house. Become involved in a ministry organization for the homeless, AIDS victims, or sexually abused children.