Many of you have heard a version of this before from me, and for those of you who haven’t… Welcome! I am so glad you’re joining us here!
For the month of June in our summer series focusing on ‘Cultivating Community,’ we are highlighting the individual attributes of the vision statement for Cultivate, and there’s no one better on the team to share about the part on kindness than me. But it’s NOT because I am kind 100% of the time. Not because I get it right even most of the time. But because God planted this vision inside of me from the very beginning.
From the very beginning of Cultivate, almost 5 years ago now, I had no idea about everything that Cultivate was supposed to be, but I did know what Cultivate was NOT supposed to be… and that was a place where mean girl behaviors (especially among sisters in Christ) were a thing. You see, I knew all the reasons why I didn’t want to be a part of ‘women’s ministry’ and as I asked around to other women I knew I got the same response… “women are mean.”
This was a curious thing to me… because we’re Christians.
But, as we all know, even “Christians” can be mean too, can’t we?
As I lamented to God about this assignment He had placed in front of me I said, “God, women are mean! I can’t work with women.”
And you know what I heard God say to me?…
“Yes, yes they are, Tam. But they’re not supposed to be. My girls are not supposed to be mean, and I want YOU to remind them of that”
At first, in the raw and unrefined planning stages, I wanted to just get up and shout to the women STOP BEING B…… (aka mean)! But as I thought more about it, I thought to myself, ‘that probably won’t go over very well…’ I could hear the church chatter ringing in my ears, “Pastor’s wife from Sandals Church called women B…… from stage”, and since Sandals has already gotten it’s fair share of attention already for using words on the ‘unapproved list’ and I didn’t want to be the one to add to it. I knew I had to be more creative on how to communicate the message God had given me to share.
In the Bible, Paul wrote this…
I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. 1 Corinthians 1:10
Let me break this down for us (myself included… because I need reminding too)
First of all, Paul wrote this letter TO THE CHURCH. This wasn’t a letter to the people who didn’t know God, but to those who proclaimed that they did.
This letter would’ve been to US, ladies.
WHY would Paul have needed to include a verse such as this? WHY would he have addressed the need to get along with each other? Because not getting along was a problem in the church.
It was a problem THEN and it is a problem NOW.
You guys…. we as women – even women of the church – women who profess to be Christians, are known for being mean girls more than we are known for being God’s girls. When it comes to this, there is very little difference seen or experienced between us and the rest of the world.
THIS IS A PROBLEM!
“You must get along with each other!”
Paul considered not getting along with each other an urgent matter to be addressed. And as I started mapping out what Cultivate would be, I did too!
He even went so far as to say “using the authority of Jesus, our master.” It was as if he thought to himself “my words alone won’t be strong or authoritative enough to get this across, I need to pull out the BIG guns.” And so I did too. Paul backed up his message with the authority of Jesus and I’m backing mine up with the words of Paul.
When I started inviting women to be a part of what we were doing and heard the response, “I want to study the bible, I just don’t want to be in a room full of women,” I knew exactly where we needed to get started on our spiritual growth journey together as the women of Sandals Church. Kindness!
By definition, cultivate means to bring a new culture to.
And this is exactly what I set out to do. I wanted to bring a new culture to the women of the church and how they treated one another. I wanted us to cultivate a life in common, and for me ‘a life in common’ meant a culture of women rooted in kindness towards one another.
So what does relational kindness mean to me?
As I’ve led the charge for creating a culture of kindness among women these past few years I must be honest and say I’m still figuring this out. But here’s what I know so far…
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way, I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35
This is how everyone will recognize that we are His disciples, when they see us love one another.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wrong. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
By definition… love is kind. Love and kindness go hand in hand. They are interchangeable. When we speak of love, we are by definition speaking of being kind. So if the world will know us by our love. They will experience this through our kindness.
I like to say it like this…
Our kindness give us our CREDIBILITY!
When we are kind, the world around us (Christians and non-Christians), sees that we are a people who mean what we say and say what we mean. This earns us credibility!
But, and most importantly, the opposite is also true. When we are unkind people could care less about what we have to say. They see us (Christians) as a people who say one thing and live another, and therefore why should they care about what we say in regards to Jesus being our Lord or Savior if we are no different than anyone else?
Our credibility earns TRUST!
When people can trust us because they see that they way we live is in line with what we have to say… they are more willing to listen.
Trust builds RELATIONSHIPS!
When people trust us, and a relationship is built… people feel safe to be real. Real with where they are personally, spiritually, and relationally.
Relationships provide OPPORTUNITY!
When we have credibility, trust, and relationship… we have an opportunity! Opportunity to share the life-changing good news of Jesus. And isn’t that what it’s all about in the end?
BUT kindness is also tricky. Because life and relationships are messy. It’s easy to be kind to easy, kind, and loving people; right? But what about the people who aren’t easy, kind, or loving? Things get a little trickier then.
Here are a few things that help me practice being a woman of exceptional kindness:
I have to remember that I too am not always easy, kind, or loving and I still want people to be kind to me.
I have to remind myself of how it felt when others were kind to me when I didn’t deserve it. And how their kindness made all the difference in my moment, day, situation, and life.
I have to be curious about what’s going on in someone’s life when they’re being unkind. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and set out to be mean. It’s been my experience that most people who struggle with unkindness have been through hard things, and as a means to protect themselves have developed unhealthy strategies in attempts to do so.
Here’s how kindness might look as I practice being a woman of exceptional kindness:
Being intentional! This is more about what’s going on inside of me than what is coming out of me. It’s asking myself in all kinds of situations with all kinds of different people, “What does kindness look like in this situation, with this person?” More often than not this turns into a prayer. First and foremost adopting a heart of kindness towards others has to become a deep-rooted part of who I (we) want to be and what I (we) want to be about. The motivation is to be more like Jesus. To follow his example. The argument… “they’re not nice to me” carries little to no weight once I (we) focus on being intentional with who I (we) want to be rather than focusing on who others are. So as I practice being a woman of kindness… I try to focus on who I want to be towards others rather than who others are to me, and it is from here that the other tips I have to offer you stem from.
Being kind first! Sometimes we mistake unkindness when fear is at play. More often than not people are afraid (of hurt or rejection) and it can come across as being unkind because they are reserved. And so, sometimes I’m kind first. I say hello first, break the ice first, start a conversation first, care first. It’s been amazing to see how when I practice being kind first people soften right up and I’ve gotten to develop the most incredible relationships.
Keeping my mouth shut and my opinions, thoughts, experiences to myself! Sometimes kindness looks like keeping my mouth shut. Kindness doesn’t mean having to be best friends with everyone. It doesn’t even mean being friends with everyone. Let’s be real, there are some people who are hard to be kind to. Especially the ones that have been unkind, maybe even straight out mean, to us.
So what does kindness look like to be kind in these situations?
For me, I’ve learned that kindness towards people I don’t like looks like not saying unkind things about them behind their backs, not trashing them, not gossiping about them, not discrediting them or putting them down, and all the other things that could so easily run off the tip of my tongue. This type of kindness may never be seen or acknowledged by the person you are showing kindness too… but that is not the point. This type of kindness says more about who you are than who they are, and who you are is a child of God!
Not being afraid to be real with myself, God, and others when I’ve been unkind, and being quick to apologize for it! Sometimes I blow it. I am not kind. I’m anything but kind. It’s been said we can be right and still be very very wrong. So sometimes being kind looks like apologizing first. Since I’ve been on this journey I’ve made lots of apologies first. I’ve started many sentences with, “That was very unkind of me, I’m sorry.” I’ve even caught myself having behaved in unkind ways and will later call or text and say, “I shouldn’t have talked unkindly about that person or situation. Even though I was hurt, that doesn’t change who I want to be – I want to be a person who is kind.” I call these cleanup jobs for my own moral compass.
I don’t want to be a person who says I care about kindness in public and then behaves differently in private.
Again, kindness has to do more with who we want to be, not about who others are. So what about the unkindness that comes out when we’ve been hurt or wronged? Isn’t this justified? It sure feels justified, doesn’t it? Here’s how I see this, the hurt and being wronged is a real thing, and real things need to be dealt with so that the relationship can be healed, kept intact, or restored. However, dealing with situations with unkindness rarely leads to healing or restoration. Typically it makes things worse, and more often than not we end up dealing with how I responded unkindly, rather than the offense itself. Now we’re all wrong. This is when I (and I encourage you to do the same) step away from the situation, ask myself ‘What does kindness look like in this situation? What does it look like for me to be real about the wounding or offense without treating the other person unkindly?’ Because the truth is, sometimes people are hard, situations are terrible, people are mean and real relational consequences exist.
Melody says it like this and I love it… “friendly (kind) to all, not friends with all.” Our closest friends need to be people that have our best interests at heart (and us, theirs), people who care about us, who don’t constantly stress us out, who are like minded in values. NEWS FLASH: Not everyone is going to meet these criteria. Not every single person is our friend. So kindness looks like being friendly to all although you may not be actual friends with all.
As you pursue being a woman who is relationally kind, ask yourself these questions:
What does kindness look like in THIS situation?
What does kindness look like with THIS person?
You guys… Titus 3:4-5 says, “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us.” If kindness was Jesus’ relational strategy (and he’s our role model, right?) shouldn’t it be our relational strategy too?
Speaking of strategies… it’s also crucial to remember that there are other strategies at play as well. The strategies of our very real enemy. Strategies to divide us. To distract us. To tangle us up in sin. To get us against each other. To have us turn on one another, believing the worst, denying forgiveness & grace (although we’ve received it for ourselves), keeping records of wrongs. People – when we let the unkindness of others become our focus and motivation, and ultimately how we treat others and who we become, the enemy’s strategies win. But when we pursue Jesus, when we adopt, focus on, practice His strategies for our lives (even when it’s hard, even when others aren’t, even when everything in us wants to not… but we do it anyway), THIS is what it looks like to be transformed. THIS is what it looks like to become more like Jesus… when we have opportunities to say, “not my will but yours,” the Jesus in us wins!
“When she speaks her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.”
I know that I’m not where I want to be when it comes to kindness, but I also know I’m certainly not where I once was. Grace + Practice = Progress friends! Kindness is a practice.
As is true with anything, the more you practice it, the better you’ll become at it. And I know this to be true because for the past 5 years I’ve seen hundreds of women do just that. I’ve seen people practice these things I’ve shared with you… being kind first, apologizing first, stopping talking about others, and making kindness about who they are instead of who others have been. And the result is a change in the culture of women is happening at Sandals Church. We are cultivating kindness! Our team gets cards, emails, texts, Instagram messages, and notes constantly telling us about how the women are so kind at our events, in our groups, at our studies. The world is noticing friends, and our kindness is becoming contagious. Keep up the good work in the practice of relational kindness, because we are carriers of the good news. Let’s never forget that!
Let us continue to grow relationally kind together!
Let’s dig deeper …
- When you think of someone who is an example of kindness, what name immediately pops into your mind? What is it about them? How does their kindness make you feel? Write them a letter, text, or card this week telling them how their kindness has made an impact on you and why.
- Is there a person you struggle being kind to? Is there a relationship in your life where you need to show kindness in by keeping your mouth shut? Ask yourself what could kindness look like with this person. Read Matthew 5:44 and spend some time in prayer for this person/situation this week. (Maybe kindness looks like you praying for them. You might be amazed in how God shows kindness to you as you respond in this simple act of obedience!)
- Think of a time when you experienced kindness. What did it look like? What happened? How can this motivate or inspire you to reciprocate kindness towards others?
- Read the following passages. Using the REAL study method, highlight what God’s word has to say in regards to kindness.
- Proverbs 11:17
- Romans 2:4
- Romans 12:8
- Colossians 3:12
- Ephesians 4:17-32
- 2 Peter 1: 1-10
- 1 Thessalonians 5
- Are there any relationships in your life where you can show more kindness? How?
- Are there any relationships in your life where you need to apologize first? Do a cleanup job in?
- In your own words, why does kindness matter as a spiritual discipline and practice?
Tammy is the founder and director of Cultivate, the women’s ministry of Sandals Church. She is married to Matt, the lead pastor of Sandals Church. Together they planted Sandals in 1997, and are proud parents to daughters Madison (20) & Kennedy (19), and son Ethan (14). Tammy loves spending time skiing, hiking, paddle boarding, and eating Mexican food with good friends! Tammy loves helping people live out the vision of being REAL with themselves, God, and others~ specifically teaching people how to be good receivers of REAL… what she affectionally refers to as being good “heart handlers”. Surviving 20+ years of ministry life with marriage & family in tact is one of her greatest achievements, and considers getting to be a part of what God’s doing at Sandals Church one of her greatest blessings.