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Why Kindness is Not the Same as Being Nice

  • Veronica Neffinger

    Veronica Neffinger wrote her first poem at age seven and went on to study English in college, focusing on 18th century literature. When she is not listening to baseball games, enjoying the…

  • Updated Sep 07, 2016

Recently, I was part of a Bible study in which we discussed the fruits of the spirit. It was enlightening and convicting in many ways. Many of us who participated in the study realized that we (and our culture in general) often do not view the various spiritual fruits listed in Galatians from a biblical perspective.

Our study of kindness was a particularly revealing one. The first question asked, “What is the difference between kindness and being nice?”

We quickly realized that we oftentimes equate these two qualities when the essence of biblical kindness is actually much deeper and more meaningful than simply being nice or polite.

This is what Pastor Stephen Witmer seeks to communicate in his blog “Kindness Changes Everything” on the Desiring God website.

Most of us probably try to be nice and pleasant when we interact with others. After all, it works to our own benefit if others like us. Kindness, true biblical kindness, however, is much more than simply smiling and asking polite questions.

Kindness, Witmer reminds us, is supernatural. Like the other fruits of the spirit, it can only be obtained through abiding in Christ. It is an outgrowth of the genuineness of our faith.

Witmer gives this definition of biblical kindness: “It’s a supernaturally generous orientation of our hearts toward other people, even when they don’t deserve it and don’t love us in return.”

This means loving our enemies and those who do not show love or even superficial niceness to us.

We are called to be kind to others because God is kind to us. He loves us when we are unlovable, and He does this over and over again. He also disciplines us when we need it, which is also showing us kindness, though it may be painful.

Witmer notes that part of kindness, contrary to what we may think, is speaking the truth even when it is hard.

“Kindness may not be pleasant,” says Witmer. “In fact, it may feel more like a blow to the head.”

He then cites Psalm 141:5:  “Let a righteous man strike me — it is a kindness; let him rebuke me — it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.”

Neither is kindness weakness. In fact, kindness is extremely powerful. The old phrase “Killing them with kindness” speaks to the power a thoughtful gesture or an act of concern can have on a cold heart.’s Kelly Balarie writes about the great impact small gestures of biblical kindness can have: “Small acts of kindness do matter and love does conquers [sic] all. Friends are the best vehicles for his love, mercy and grace. They drive his truth home in our hearts.”

There are countless opportunities to display kindness each day, and in so doing, to show others around us the love of Christ. How can you live out the sort of kindness God has shown you today?


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Publication date: September 7, 2016

Veronica Neffinger is the editor of