Know what’s harder than getting a big pig into the bathtub? Being kinder than necessary when you’re trying to be.

We’re about a week in to a month of aiming at Kindness and this Good Word is a harder word than I thought. It whispers in the back of my mind when that one kid interrupts for the third time after being corrected for interrupting three times and my tone changes from polite to Grinch in 0.7 seconds. It is there when I have conversations about plans and decisions and I find myself steering toward the outcome that I want most instead of the outcome that is just plain best all-around.

And as I raise my voice without thinking twice for the third time on the first morning back to homeschooling after a week off — well that word Kindness I wrote on my hand while talking with Jesus that morning seems to kinda laugh at me, in a smirking sort of way.

A few months ago when I started thinking about kindness, I thought about all that lovey-dovey Random Acts of Kindness for Strangers stuff… such fun stuff, such easy stuff. Cotton candy and rainbows and unicorns stuff. But I almost laughed aloud when we were piled up onto a bed saying prayers one night and the following thought hit me between the eyes:

“If I am going to focus on kindness, I am going to have to be kind to these people, too. The people closest to me. And I am suddenly realizing that is probably the hardest part.”

The truth is, being kind to strangers has no strings attached. No background. And when it’s done anonymously or even in a way that the person might see you but not know who you are, well then it’s like there is no kind of future expectation of similar treatment. You get all the feelz of being kind… without the side effects of thinking “I am going to have to continue this course of action, even when it’s inconvenient and maybe even downright uncomfortable.”

Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

So here’s what “This Kindness Thing” has brought me back to: the Gospel.

There is a big mountain for me to climb — Mt. St. Kindness — and I sure do like the idea of being the Little Engine That Could, chugging my way along to the top, proudly standing in front of Jesus with an armful of “Look how kind I’ve been! You’re totally proud, right?”

But trying it in my own strength, for even a day, helps me realize I am truly, deeply, fully The Little Engine that Couldn’t, Can’t and Never Will.

What does this mean? I have a mountain to climb that I can’t climb? A desire to be kind with no ability to do the stuff?

Enter the Hero who comes down the mountain to the Little Engine, the Hero who walks alongside the Little Engine, the Hero who exchanges His heaven for our bottom-of-the-mountain mess.

Jesus came because I couldn’t go. Jesus came down the mountain because I can’t climb up on my own.

So where do we go from here?

We lean in. We lean on. We pray and we ask God to keep on changing us. Keep on taking our selfish hearts of stone and turning them into hearts of flesh. We pray that the Holy Spirit will whisper, maybe even before my tone changes from polite to Grinch — to say “I can show you a better way, if you let Me.”

I have a weekend to ponder all this over, the patterns, the hopes, the procedures and the plans — and Monday jump into a new week, perhaps with a new enthusiasm for kindness.

This is the amazing paradox of it all: The beginning of becoming what I want to be for Jesus is the acute awareness that I absolutely cannot. It is completely impossible for ‘kinder than necessary’ to become a part of me — without the indwelling of the God who comes down the mountain and says

“With man, this is impossible. With God, all things are possible.”

So we will keep reading, thinking and learning these words this week:

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” {Eph. 4:32}

And we will keep leaning into the God that makes this truly possible.


P.S. How’s the kindness going for you? I’d love to hear from you! Shoot me an email or share on social media with #thegoodwordswithlove