Benefits for leaders who are kind:
1. Kind leaders are able to gently correct others, strengthening connections instead of breaking them.
2. Leaders who are kind and courteous, and therefore not defensive, are approachable and enjoy better communication and collaboration with their teams.
Benefits for the community where leaders are kind:
1. Showing kindness to others helps create a community where people offer one another everyday mercies. And everyone needs some kind of mercy every day!
2. Showing patience and kindness can diffuse tense situations and put people at ease.
Biblical inspiration and support:
There was a time when I thought the leader was the most headstrong person in the room who imposed their will on others. That is not the picture Paul paints as he instructs Timothy in this passage:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24–26, ESV, emphasis mine)
Paul urges Timothy to not be quarrelsome but kind and patient. The following passages build on this idea but use a different Greek word, ἐπιεικής, which the Greek Lexicon defines as, “not insisting on every right of letter of law or custom, yielding, gentle, kind, courteous, tolerant.” It is translated “gentle” in the following two passages. Reading these passages begins to give you a feel for the characteristic Paul is trying to highlight in his writing:
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:1–2, ESV, emphasis mine)
“2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” (1 Timothy 3:2–3, ESV, emphasis mine)
Overseers are to be gentle and kind. We see this word used in contrast with quarreling; when tempted to quarrel we are instructed to be gentle instead.
Quarreling is to dispute, to contend – to fight. Fighting is at odds with a leader’s purpose to serve the community by forging connections and fruitful collaboration.
This same Greek word is also used in one of my favorite passages:
“17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17, ESV, emphasis mine)
James says wisdom is gentle, peaceable – not combative, not battling – and full of mercy and open to reason. Leaders are not to be defensive, they are to be confident in their role and able to be gentle with those who oppose them, to be patient, kind. This allows them to be able to entertain new ideas that are foreign to their thinking, to have their blind spots exposed, to gain from the perspectives and experience of others.
Here in Philippians the same Greek word has been translated, “reasonableness,” providing another angle on what is being described. Christians are to be kind, gentle and reasonable.
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4–7, ESV, Emphasis mine)
Christians are directed and encouraged not to be quick to argue but instead to be kind, gentle, courteous and reasonable. Kindness contributes to an environment where small disputes can remain small and people value each other more than winning an argument. It seems to me that kindness is an everyday kind of mercy we can offer one another. It works to create the hospitable space we desire in our homes, churches and workplaces.
What comes to mind is not one particular story, but the many times that team leaders and members have been gracious to me when I have spoken out of turn, or out of agitation. The times when they have shown me patience when I have spoken from anger or fear. The times they chose to be gracious and to diffuse a situation when, if they had responded in the same way to me, it would have made the situation worse.
And since COVID, I feel people’s kindness is even more meaningful to me, both because I have missed interacting with people and therefore missed their kindness, but also because there has been a lot of quarreling and disputing among people in the last couple years. I realize that I have gotten to the point that I almost expect people to be unreasonable, so when people are kind and gentle I find it comforting and I relax. Someone reminded me recently, when we relax “it becomes easier for us to show up as our best selves.”
Being kind and gentle doesn’t happen by accident.
What do you need to do to help you deal with the frustrations and disappointments of life so you can be refreshed and offer kindness? We often see a day off, time to ourselves or a vacation as luxuries, but when it comes to being able to kind, tolerant, patient and gracious we need to give ourselves time to deal with our own hardships and difficulties, and time just to be refreshed.
It seems that productivity, creativity and efficiency are often rewarded in our culture, but not so with kindness. How could we build in ways to highlight, encourage and honor acts and attitudes of kindness among our team?
A parting word on kindness:
Kindness is an everyday kind of mercy.
How has someone’s kindness made a difference to you?
 William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 371.
Hi! I'm Jeri Howe.
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