Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

What does it mean to cultivate kindness? When I hear the word “cultivate” I tend to think of gardening. With a garden, you have to show it a lot of time and effort to see the payoff. Cultivating your garden means to prepare and care for it. Kindness takes the same work and care.

What does kindness mean to you? What does it look like? Is it giving of your time or resources freely? Is it looking out for the underdog? Is it little acts throughout each day that show others you care? For me, it is being selfless with my time and spending it with others and giving without the expectation of getting anything in return. Why is kindness in such short supply these days? It isn’t always easy to be kind, but it is always rewarding.

Here are a few ways that I have been trying to cultivate kindness in my daily life:

  1. Be aware of your influence: Be conscious of the effect you have on others. You know the snarky remark you made when you were out of patience with the store clerk? We’ve all been there – we’ve all ruined someone else’s day because we were having a bad one ourselves. Don’t take your aggravation or exhaustion out on innocent bystanders. If you do, follow it up with a sincere apology. Knowing your influence on others is a great way to keep kindness at the center.
  2. Be present in person: Offering your condolences and congratulations over Facebook doesn’t always take it far enough. A true act of kindness is taking the time to show up face to face.
  3. Let some things go: When someone cuts you off on the interstate because they are in even more of a hurry than you are, let it go instead of giving them a dirty look and possibly shouting at their car. I know it can be tempting to let road rage take over, but the feeling of knowing that you aren’t quite as wound up as the other driver must be is a small victory. Maybe the next time someone cuts THEM off they will remember your kind reaction and show someone else grace.
  4. Keep it to yourself: Being kind to others is not about showing off or “humble bragging” after you do something nice for someone else. It is about the internal pat on the back you get, not the external one. Kindness requires no affirmation or payback.

Just like exercising your muscles makes them stronger, flexing your kindness muscles does the same. You get better and better with practice.