of Kindness at Home
by Roger Butner, PHD, LMFT
We hat to admit it, but we know it’s the ugly truth: it is often easier to show kindness to strangers and acquaintances than to our own beloved family members at home.
It’s as though we have an expectation of our spouses, kids, or other family members to get everything right all the time, yet we extend grace to those outside the home. And being exposed so often to so many of our family members’ faults can simply wear down our patience with them, to the point that we lose our spirit of kindness, gentleness and grace. How much stronger and more peaceful is our home life when we share these virtues in abundance with our loved ones!
God’s Word teaches us in Galatians 5:22 that His Holy Spirit produces in us the fruit of kindness, along with patience and gentleness for good measure. What wonderful news! This means God’s natural work is to produce in us the very virtues our family members long for us to share with them.
My favorite passage for guidance on how to live with spouses and children is Philippians 2:1-18.
A few years ago, I was reading this passage in an unfamiliar translation … The New Century Version. Suddenly, verses 12 and 13 took on clear meaning for me as they never had before: “ …Keep on working to complete your salvation with fear and trembling, because God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him. ” Wow! Seriously, read that again, and consider the incredible meaning. If we are seeking Him and His will, He will give us the additional motivation and tools we need to walk in His will – even to want to walk in His will. We just need to be willing to seek Him daily. My goal today is to offer you a few simple ideas to help you move closer in step with His Spirit as you share the life-giving fruit of kindness in greater abundance in your own home.
Offer an encouraging word every day. This may not be your current habit, but it surely is a good one to cultivate. Use an app on your phone or a simple note on your bathroom mirror to remind you to seize an opportunity at least once a day to verbalize to your spouse and each child something you like, appreciate or admire in them. If you miss a day, don’t sweat it – just keep looking for those moments to lift their spirits with your genuine words of kindness. This is such a simple practice that can make a world of difference at home or anywhere else you choose to practice this act of kindness.
Watch your tone. You’ve heard it before. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. This is such a powerful truth. One simple way to change our tone from harshness to kindness is to regularly ask ourselves before opening our mouths, “Am I going to invite my spouse or child to hear me and consider my words, or fight with me and reject my words?” If we really want to be heard and considered, why do we so often speak in a way that invites pushback, fighting and rejection? If this is a deeply engrained pattern in your relationships at home, try this exercise: Whenever you know you need to say or discuss something that may be emotionally charged, invite your spouse or child to come stand in front of a large mirror with you. You will find it easier to keep your words, tone and body language in a spirit of kindness when you have the immediate feedback of seeing your own “energy” while you speak. Seriously. Try it.
Take time to listen. Practice the wisdom of this classic prayer: “ O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love… ” Kindness in relationships is often demonstrated through taking the time to genuinely listen to and consider one another’s words. In fact, one of the most effective ways to “get” someone to listen to you with an open mind is to offer that very gift to them first. Spouses and kids who feel heard by your kind ear and heart are so much more likely to enjoy a peaceful and mutually respectful relationship with you.
May these simple suggestions bless you and your loved ones with a bumper crop of kindness! If I can assist you in any way, please reach out to me at Roger@hopeforyourfamily.com.