Kindness: February Devotion (by: Leah Smith)
Kindness is…. Simple, really. We tend to overcomplicate it, questioning if we should extend that hand; maybe we are scared of what people think, maybe it will inconvenience us, or maybe we genuinely don’t see a need. Sometimes in a moment, I will see a need but question what would be the best aid. But if we take a moment to personalize the situation, to put ourselves in that person’s shoes, it becomes so much easier. Still, having a few examples is helpful! Below I have listed 4 basic categories and ways we can be kind.
Helpful to Self, to Friends, to Parents, and to Teachers.
I have learned that a little kindness goes a long way in breaking tension and encouraging others.
Such an important part of being kind as a person is being kind to ourselves. To be honest I did not realize how important this was until recently. I grew up with an idea that I was supposed to sacrifice myself for others constantly, work as hard as possible, and never stop DOING. I took very good and healthy things (sacrificial service, work, action) to unhealthy levels, neglecting myself and causing a decline in my health: physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is so important to stay healthy in these areas.
We are called as Christians to serve, work to the best of our ability, and use action to loves others, but we can’t do that well if we neglect ourselves. The ability to be consistently kind to others starts with being kind to ourselves.
There are two areas of kindness to ourselves that would do worlds of difference if we applied each of them. Eating right, Rest, and Relaxation.
Being kind to ourselves through eating is as simple as balancing food groups. Choosing our food wisely, focusing on: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low sugar. Start educating yourself to food label speak. Start recognizing the different ways companies disguise sugar replacers (such as sucralose and aspartame). Also, take note that most of the time when fat is taken out of a product (low fat/fat free dairy products mainly), the sugar content is often increased. As a rule of thumb, the least amount of alterations in a food-type is healthiest.
Rest and Relaxation may seem like the same thing, but they aren’t! Rest is physical. It means sleep, and our body needs lots of it. Staying up until midnight or even later does no one a favor, especially your own body. The human body is made to rebuild itself while sleeping. Muscles that were used during the day need to repair, brains need rest so they can work well the next day, and immune systems need the energy restored from sleep to keep bodies healthy. If we deprive our bodies of rest, we are breaking our bodies down, then we get sick easier, get tired faster, and our strength isn’t restored.
Relaxation on the other hand is emotional. Our emotional health is just as important as physical health, and it actually plays into our physical health in many ways! When I am stressed and haven’t taken a break in a few days to just relax and recoup my brain and emotions, my body feels more tired, and I get sick easier. Also, negative thoughts and emotions, depression, etc., can also show up as physical ailments. We need to have hobbies and ways to relax. Go on a hike(fresh air is GREAT for the body!), garden outside in the spring, read, cook, write, do a craft, laugh with friends, etc.
Being kind to friends is number two. Everything we do and say has an effect on the people we are around. It is our job to be kind to those around us, to encourage them and lift them up. In Colossians God calls us to be kind to others, to “clothe” ourselves with kindness, like a garment. What does a garment do? It covers us. We are to be covered completely with kindness! What a beautiful garment to wear.
And such a simple way to live and act toward others. I think about the dance studio, all the moments during every class that we can be kind to our fellow dance students. Instead of fighting over a spot at the barre, step aside to a different place, instead of pushing to the front of the line, step back to let someone else be first. When you see someone struggling (or doing something awesome!) give them an encouraging word to put pep in their step. Don’t gossip and talk behind your friends back. Speak well of friends always, even when they aren’t there or listening. Defend their honor. If your friend needs help with a step, help them quickly!
Praying for our friends is another great way to be kind to them. Who wouldn’t feel better when friends are in constant prayer for them?? The books of Philemon, Ephesians, 1 Thessalonians, Matthew, and Luke all mention praying for other people! And, it mentions apostles asking people to pray for them. We all need prayer all the time.
Think of one or two people in your life who care for you, are there for you day and night, house you, clothe you, provide for you, buy you everything you need, much of what you want, and give you chance after chance even when you talk back, don’t obey, and are often rude and snide to them. For most of us, this is our parents, for the rest of us, it is people who have stepped in to be our parents. In either case, respecting them is one of the greatest gifts we could give them.
As a parent myself, I get this now. A simple “thank you,” doing something not only the first time you’re asked, but before you’re even asked, and a polite and respectful reply to a question would all brighten a parent’s day. In Matthew Jesus says we should honor our parents. To honor someone is to give them high respect and esteem. This is what we are called to give our parents and those who parent us, whether biological or those who chose to be there for us.
Just as important as respecting parents is respecting teachers. Teachers spend a lot of time planning lessons, planning class outlines. Dance teachers spend hours listening to music, choreographing dances, furthering their training, and meeting with other teachers, in order to plan the best possible classes for dance students.
We are constantly looking for better ways to explain steps, we watch during classes to see where students need more work and strength, where they are excelling and we can encourage and applaud them. And we do much of this outside of studio time. Many teachers come into the studio extra hours during the week to dedicate to choreography, others (like me) have kids, have household duties, and fit all this between bedtimes, nap times, meals, and cleaning. We do it because we LOVE it, and because we love each student who walks through those doors, and we want to help them find their dancing voice and passion.
With this is the importance for students to realize the respect their teachers deserve. In dance, school, and everywhere else. Respecting teachers is simple. Listen intently when they speak and don’t talk to your friends or be disruptive. Be on time and prepared, know your choreography, be warmed up BEFORE class, and be mentally there. Come to class. If you must miss for sickness or extenuating circumstances, make sure you check on missed things to be made up. Ask a friend as soon as possible to fill you in and get your up to speed.
Kindness is a simple character trait that we can ALL participate in and extend to everyone around us. Beginning in these 4 areas of Self, Friends, Parents, and Teachers, I hope you’ll join me in learning to extend kindness!