True or False? “What is desirable in a man is his kindness.”

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, "He was a man of honor, of noble and generous nature; Though he was rough, he was kindly; she knew how during the winter He had attended the sick, with a hand as gentle as woman’s. . . . Stern as a soldier might be, but hearty, and placable always . . . he was great of heart, magnanimous, courtly, courageous; Any woman in Plymouth, nay, any woman in England, Might be happy and proud to be called the wife of Miles Standish!" Miles Standish “was kindly."

Is it true that what is wanted in a person is for this individual to be friendly, generous, and considerate? Yes. Proverbs 19:22 states, "What is desirable in a man is his kindness."

Why is kindness such a desirable trait? Because people know that others will respond to a kind individual. Kindness motivates people to act. Publilius Syrus said, "You can accomplish by kindness what you cannot by force."

Publilius Syrus learned that kindness is more powerful than coercion. However, for many this seems counterintuitive. During stressful moments and under a huge time crunch the notion that kindness works wonders seems silly to us. Too often, we feel our kindness gets us ignored or even results in our losing power and influence. We whisper under our breath, “I know why kindness is desirable in a man. It allows others to take advantage of him by ignoring him since they know he will be nice no matter what."

For this reason, many of us believe that treating others unkindly will result in getting them to do what we want, at least more quickly than if we were kind to them. We win the battle with unkindness. This explains why we unkindly threaten the clerk that we will talk to his manager, we unkindly shout that we will not do business here again, and we unkindly warn we will put out on the Internet to never shop here. When we are unkind, the force is with us!

How do you react during stressful moments when you need someone to do something for you?

You have a number of errands to run and are under real time restraints. Given you had the chance to force a stranger behind the counter to give you your money back on a returned item, would you bark a command for him to do so? Or, would you kindly appeal to him to help you get your money back without the assurance that he would help you in a timely manner? Which way would you approach him? What have you done in the past?

Given your wife keeps undermining your authority with the kids, do you approach her kindly, lovingly, and truthfully with the need to stop this and to come up with a game plan of discipline to which both of you agree, and if necessary get outside help with this game plan? Or, do you blow a cork and tell her she is disrespectful and then resort to a totally passive response to her and the kids since “she will wear the pants anyway”? Do you refuse to be friendly with her, considerate of the kids’ needs, and generous with your time to stay engaged?

Given your husband is not as empathetic with the children as you are and when he is with them on his own he tends to allow them too much freedom until they provoke him to anger, do you approach him kindly, respectfully, and truthfully with the need to see the powerful influence he has on the kids when he empathizes with them and the negative impact when he jumps on them with anger? Do you stay on this positive message even when he falls short? Or, do you get fed up with him and verbally blast him, even in front of the kids, as though he is more immature than they are? Do you see him as undeserving of your respect and therefore feel no remorse in being unkind and disrespectful since the welfare of the kids trumps his egotistical wishes?

William Shakespeare wrote, "Speak low, if you speak love.” In other words, we cannot habitually shout at those we love even if we speak the necessary truth. High-volumed speech is comparable to playing a lullaby full blast on a ghetto blaster. Kindness demands volume and content control.

Are we convinced?

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough."

Many of us think we must be somewhat cruel to be tough and to achieve our goals. Thus, we remain unkind. After all, we have won many battles with unkindness. When we are unfriendly and demand others to be considerate of us, the clerk, the wife, or the husband accommodates our expectations.

It works.

But over time we should all know that unkindness undermines our credibility, loses the hearts of other people, and displeases God. Though the other person may not deserve our friendly treatment, a mean-spirited and hurtful comment will fall short of who God calls us to be as a person and is unlikely to gain much traction long term with this other individual.

Is this not why Micah the prophet declared, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:8)?

Indeed, "what is desirable in a man is his kindness.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you seen the following, and what do you feel about what you have seen? A husband refuses to be kind and loving to his wife lest she keep on controlling him by telling him what to do. A wife spurns the idea of being kind and respectful toward her husband since she will be treated like a doormat.

  2. True or False? Many of us believe that to the extent that we are kind to that extent we lose power and influence.

  3. Has being unkind worked for you in the past? Has it gotten you the results you wanted? What has been any negative fallout from being unkind? Did that trump the “positives” that came from being unkind?

  4. Now put yourself in the other’s shoes. Have you ever been more motivated to help someone because they were kind to you when they could have been unkind? Why did you help them even though it wasn’t demanded of you?

  5. I wrote, “We cannot habitually shout at those we love even if we speak the necessary truth.” When you read this, were you reminded of an instance when you shouted unnecessarily at someone you loved? Do you need to seek his or her forgiveness and learn to speak more kindly?

-Dr. E