Kindness Is Not
“Mama, you be rude!” said my 2-year-old emphatically. I did not allow him to have a second piece of candy as his dessert and therefore, I was being rude and acting very unkind towards him. This scenario plays out in various ways: not buying the toy inconveniently displayed in the checkout lane, not turning on a movie when requested, insisting that my boys use the potty before we leave the house. Now that I have two children in elementary school, situations where I am seen as unkind include not allowing them to go certain places or spend time with certain people or watch certain shows or play certain games. My boys think I am being mean and stifling their fun and adventure, but the truth is I am acting out of pure kindness and love for them.
This year I learned the word “hesed”. This is a Hebrew word that has many meanings: lovingkindness, mercy, goodness, and faithfulness are just some of the English words that hesed encompasses. The hesed of the Lord means that while we may have trouble in this world, we can rest assured that the Lord is faithful and He is eternally kind to us. This is such a complete steadfast love that our words are inadequate to describe hesed.
Kindness is not giving our children whatever they want. Kindness is not allowing our children to make the rules and guide the family. We show our children true kindness when we seek their best interests and use our authority and knowledge to guide them to safety and security. We seek their safety and security at the dinner table, in the grocery store, and in their relationships. Ultimately, we seek their safety and security in salvation. In Romans 2:4 we read, “Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” When we shepherd the hearts of our children, we act kindly towards them so that they get a glimpse of God’s kindness. His kindness will stir the desire to know Him and love Him, which will lead to repentance and salvation.
Kindness is not teaching our children that they are “good kids”. Kindness is teaching our children that they are sinners in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Kindness is not assuming that our children will come to a saving knowledge of who Christ is and what He has done to redeem their sins. Kindness is guiding our children in the fear of the Lord so that they will turn from evil and seek Him first. “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.” (Proverbs 16:6). If we, their parents, do not teach our children of their depraved nature and condemnation and if we, their parents, do not teach our children of their Savior Jesus and salvation, then how will they know and why would they seek? Kindness towards our children is teaching them to rightly view themselves within a right view of God so that they may have eternal life.
This brings us back to the Hebrew word “hesed”. When we are teaching our children about God, we must remember that we are our children’s primary example of a parental figure. When we tell our children that their Heavenly Father unconditionally loves them and will always act in lovingkindness towards them, do they know how that looks and feels based on our actions? When we teach them that God is good and God is faithful, do they see examples of goodness and faithfulness displayed in us? Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” May our children grow to understand this truth by their knowledge that their earthly parents desire their good and preservation. In our interactions with our children, may we establish their trust that our decisions and guidance is always for their good. In building earthly trust in us, we are laying a firm foundation for their eternal trust in their Heavenly Father.
Kindness is not being a pushover parent or letting our children be the head of the household. Kindness is not giving our children whatever they want, but rather meeting their needs. Kindness is not side stepping hurt feelings or hard topics, but rather truthfully discussing sin nature and redemption. As parents, the greatest kindness we can offer our children is to direct them to Jesus and to provide them with a complete picture of who He is and who they are in relation to Him. The greatest kindness we can extend to our children is to offer them the truth of eternal life and an understanding of the hesed of the Lord.