“Lovingkindness is greater than laws, and the charities of life are more than all ceremonies” (The Talmud).

WE DON’T USE THE WORD “LOVINGKINDNESS” MUCH ANYMORE, BUT IT’S STILL A VALUABLE WORD. Basically, it means the type of regard for another person that is characterized by tenderness, mercy, and grace. One dictionary says that it is “tender kindness motivated by a feeling of affection.” “Lovingkindness” is a compound word that joins two important qualities: love and kindness. It is love that shows itself in kindness — and kindness that is enlivened by love.

Most of us acknowledge the importance of love, but in our love, not many of us are as kind as we ought to be. Indeed, we’re often the most discourteous and ungentle to those who are nearest and dearest to us: our spouses, our children, and our parents. When we are “at home,” perhaps after a difficult day, it doesn’t do any good to plead that we’re tired or that tenderness is not our personality. Our loved ones deserve that we love them with consistent lovingkindness — and that means exerting the effort to be courteous and gentle. “Kindness,” as has been said, “is love in work clothes.” When love doesn’t do the work necessary to exhibit lovingkindness, it’s being lazy.

Strictly speaking, love that does not show up in kindness is not worthy of being called love. As Amy Carmichael said, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” Giving the gift of lovingkindness doesn’t mean that love is weak or that it walks on eggshells, fearful of doing anything the other person might not like. There is certainly a time for tough love, but even then, lovingkindness will make us gentle, unwilling to hurt the loved one any more than is absolutely necessary. The rule in criticism is the same as in carving: never cut with a knife what you can cut with a spoon.

In a world full of personal pain, we never give a greater gift than when we show lovingkindness. “If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend,” George MacDonald wrote, “that would be giving as the angels give.” Unless you can read other people’s hearts, you probably won’t know how much they need your kindness — but love them kindly anyway.

“Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” (Ian Maclaren).

Gary Henry — WordPoints.com + AreYouaChristian.com

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