Kindness Takes Courage

The way to Elle’s heart is sharing. When Bea gave her a cinnamon cracker, leftover from her school snack, Elle beamed the entire walk home, showing me the cracker and exclaiming, Bea shared with ME!

IMG_7052I don’t know when I started changing my language, but when the girls do things for each other, I use the word kind instead of nice. So when Elle showed me her cracker, I responded, That was so kind of Bea!

When I think about our family’s values, kindness goes much farther than niceness. Sure, I want my kids to be nice but I would rather that they are fiercely kind. One one level, these words seem interchangeable so I decided to look them up.

It’s no wonder I prefer kind over nice. The origin of nice comes from the Latin word nescire or “ignorant,” which evolved to the Old French word nescius or “foolish.” It wasn’t until the 1700’s that nice became synonymous with pleasant. (Merriam-Webster dictionary)

The word kind has a much different story, originating from the Old English word cynd which has evolved to kin, or family. (Merriam-Webster dictionary) If you Google kind, one of the definitions that comes up is “each of the elements (bread and wine) of the Eucharist.”

No wonder kind has so much more depth and substance! To be kind is to treat someone like family, to love them as kin.

I know that the ancient Hebrew text wouldn’t have used the word kind. In fact, the New International Version of the verse translates it as, “to love mercy.” The Message paraphrase reads, “be compassionate and loyal in your love.”

I suppose it’s a reminder that words and translations matter and that how we read a text depends on the lens in which we view it. However, I think I’m going to stick with “love kindness.” Kindness feels accessible to my everyday life. This doesn’t mean it’s easy or natural; but it’s a word I use naturally and one I can understand easily.

To me, kindness means sharing. Not just sharing our cinnamon snack cookies, but sharing life together. Sharing a meal, sharing in silence, sharing in heartache and joy. When I scroll through my Twitter and Facebook feeds and read countless women (and men) saying, #metoo, I sit in kindness, sharing their grief. When I read the news of natural disasters both here and abroad, I sit in kindness and sorrow for nations who don’t have the infrastructure to rebuild or assist quickly.

Sitting in kindness isn’t passive; it’s not sweet or gentle. Kindness takes courage to not shift into the more tepid niceness. Kindness might look obstinant or threatening to the status quo. Kindness might push back against oppression. But I don’t think kindness is aggressive or mean. Kindness is remembering the humanity in all sides of an issue or disagreement.

I’m learning that kindness looks like listening to both sides, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion or that I don’t stand with the oppressed. I beleive this fierce kindness can change the world, activiely bringing restoration.

How do you interact with words and translations? (Which Bible translation is your favorite?) How do you see active kindness in your community?

BackyardThis post is Day 18 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

4 thoughts on “Kindness Takes Courage

  1. What’s in a word? Eh? I keep going back to NASB, Mostly because it was the first bible given to me. I seem to keep navigating back to it. It feels comfortable. The other day I was reading a Marilynne Robinson Essay, “Wondrous Love.” I find her so difficult to read because her vocabulary is so prolific and exact. I must sit alongside Merriam-Webster to comprehend much of it. That is Okay with me. I love her words even if I struggle to comprehend some of them. She speaks of the use of the word “sword” in the bible – how Jesus used it and in what context – it was very interesting and I felt compelled to want to agree with her. “When he spoke these words, Jesus might well have foreseen that in bringing a new understanding of a traditional faith he would divide families—the “sword” he speaks of is the setting of fathers against sons and mothers against daughters. This is both inevitable and regrettable. In the narrative as I understand it, his words would be heavy with sorrow.” This essay was long and meandering. I really enjoyed it. And it, more than some others, had me wanting to dig deeper.

  2. I wouldn’t have thought the origins of nice and kind being so different. I think I need to change my language too. There is something deeper, richer about the word kindness. I like that it implies family. The past couple of years I look at the VOICE version a lot when searching scripture for our worship gatherings. The first bible I really understood was a Living Bible given to me as a teenager. I can’t say I have a favorite but NLT tends to be a frequent go-to.

    1. I was so surprised!! The NLT was my first “grownup” study Bible and I still use that. But I love resources like Bible Gateway to help me see all sorts of translations!

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