People can be perturbing. Marriage and family life would be a lot less stressful if husbands and children didn’t sometimes act irresponsibly or disregard our feelings or instructions. Ministry would go more smoothly and be less demanding if people weren’t so needy or would just get their act together. Many of the issues we face in our jobs would go away if it weren’t for inexperienced coworkers, demanding clients, or impatient customers.
Yes, people may cause the lion’s share of our headaches. But when we serve people, we serve Christ. And when we treat people with kindness rather than indifference or impatience, we become channels of blessing, dispensing gracious words and actions that can’t help but adorn the gospel of Christ.
The Proverbs 31 Example
The woman whose description we know so well from Proverbs 31 is a lovely, biblical model of kindness in action. Wherever this strong, gifted, diligent woman goes, she leaves a trail of goodness, and she ministers grace to everyone around her: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Prov. 31:26).
But note who benefits first from this woman’s industry and goodwill. For her, kindness begins at home. With her family. With her inner circle. With those who share her daily life. Her kindness toward her husband, for example, is displayed in a daily commitment that remains undiminished with the passing of time or when their relationship may be in a hard place: “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (Prov. 31:12).
Not a day is wasted by lashing out in frustration and anger or being passive-aggressive. Every day is seen as an opportunity to do her husband good with her attitude, words, and actions. This is a huge gift she gives to him—and to herself, as her husband responds with the highest of praise for his wife.
The Proverbs 31 woman’s selfless, thoughtful deeds also bless her entire family as she labors tirelessly and faithfully to ensure their needs are met.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,vfor all her household are clothed in scarlet. . . . She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed (vv. 21, 27–28).
Those Closest to Us
The fact is nowhere am I more tempted to be selfish and lazy than in my home and my closest relationships. And I fear this is true for most of us—wives and moms, as well as those who live with other family members or friends. Too often, I’m afraid, we show more concern and kindness for neighbors, colleagues, store clerks, or complete strangers than for those who live under the same roof with us or who are related to us by blood or marriage.
If a couple were staying at our house for the weekend, we’d be sure clean towels were in the bathroom, their linens were freshly washed, dinner was flexible to their schedule, and a fresh pot of coffee was brewing in the morning. But when our own kids and husband need something—well, they know where the refrigerator is and how to turn on the oven.
Managing a busy household, dealing with the daily tasks related to serving husbands and kids—or whatever other responsibilities you may have—requires diligence and discipline day in and day out. It requires hard work, sometimes exhausting work. But it also requires kindness—or as one commentator put it, “a lack of irritability in light of the nagging demands of mundane and routine household duties.”1
And that’s where things can get challenging. It’s so easy for us to be like the woman who once lamented to me with refreshing candor, “I’m only good enough to look good to the world.” At home, it’s often another story.
When I’m out speaking at a conference, I can be exceedingly gracious, kind, and patient with long lines of women who want to share their burdens and their (at times long, detailed) stories, looking them in the eyes, never complaining about my tired, aching back and feet. But when those closest to me—in my home, my family, or our ministry—need a listening ear, an attentive heart, or a thoughtful act, I can be preoccupied, unfeeling, or just too busy.
Who among us hasn’t had the experience of being in the middle of a tense, unkind exchange at home, only to instantly change our tone and talk warmly with a outsider who calls or stops by? What does that say to our loved ones about how we value them and about the authenticity of our “kindness” to others?
Extra Helpings of Grace
Yes, kindness at home takes extra effort. Home is where we experience most acutely those daily annoyances and disappointments that tempt us to develop an attitude. So kindness at home also requires extra helpings of grace, which in turn requires daily dependence on God and the support of our Titus 2 sisters.
Already, in the short time I’ve been a wife, I’ve witnessed at moments the distance-creating, intimacy-killing impact of a lack of kindness on my part toward my husband. Unkind words spoken thoughtlessly, kind words left unspoken, inconsiderate actions; being too self-absorbed to notice and celebrate an accomplishment in my husband’s business; wounding him in sensitive areas with insensitive teasing; being too busy with my own stuff to carry out small acts of kindness that would serve and bless him.
But I’ve also experienced the incredible importance and power of kindness in a marriage. I have seen it modeled in the marriages of some of my closest friends and of my Titus 2 mentors. And Robert’s tender heart and his consistent kindness—always looking for ways to serve and bless me—have inspired me to be more tuned in to how I can do good to him. Being the recipient of his kindness has increased my desire to outdo him in this area.
Often, I’ve found, it’s the little things—the simple expressions of gratitude and kindness—that express love to my husband and set the tone in our relationship. Leaving encouraging sticky notes in his One-Year Bible when he is headed out on a trip. Turning down the sheet on his side of the bed at night. Delivering a sandwich and cold root beer on a hot day when he’s outside working on a project. Stopping in the middle of a busy work day to head downstairs to his study and find out how his day is going. Honoring his preferences over mine. Assuming the best when he forgets to tell me a piece of news. Choosing to overlook some perceived (or real) slight rather than grinding his nose in it. A kind heart expressed in kind words and kind deeds oils our relationship and softens and draws our hearts toward each other.
Your call to kindness at home will probably take different forms from mine. It may involve curbing a sharp reaction to a childish accident, replenishing the fridge with snacks for a teen, helping a roommate with a project, repeating yourself gently to an elderly parent. But if we were all to demonstrate true kindness toward the people who know us best and see us at our worst, our more public displays of affection would likely ring more true. And I suspect that if we showed more kindness at home, we’d also find ourselves growing genuinely kinder toward everyone else.
How about you? Would the people who live in your home and work with consider you a kind woman? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
This post is an excerpt from Nancy’s new book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. For more practical encouragement to choose kindness, you can also check out Shaunti Feldhahn’s book The Kindness Challenge: Thirty Days to Improve Any Relationship, available now through Friday (9/1/17) for your gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts.
1Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34 of The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 1992), 301.
This article originally appeared on ReviveOurHearts.com. Used with permission.
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.
She has authored nineteen books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), and Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. Her books have sold more than three million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com for more form Nancy.
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Publication date: August 30, 2017