“You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
I heard this often from my mom and grandmother. It may be one of those little sayings that it seems everyone’s grandmother knows, but there’s truth in it! You’re more likely to have pleasant interactions with others when you are kind to them.
As Christians, we have another, even more compelling reason to treat others with particular kindness and deference.
“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Phillipians 2:3-4 HCSB
Admittedly, this attitude is counter-cultural, and in direct opposition to our own human tendency towards selfishness. Putting others first is certainly not my natural response, particularly if I feel that someone is being “difficult”. There are times when I show kindness more out of a sense of obligation than because I want to!
Consider this though, you have no idea what is going on behind the scenes in someone’s life. Perhaps the person who is irritable when placing their coffee order has been up most of the night in the emergency room with a loved one. The person who is angry about the mistake on their store receipt may have just lost their job. Maybe they are dealing with a chronic illness, or this is the time of year when someone they were close to passed away. It could be that they are just having a no good, very bad day!
I came across a quote attributed to Rev. John Watson that sums this up nicely.
“Be kind, for every one is fighting a hard battle.”
Remembering that everyone is dealing with something in their own lives can help us to be a little more patient and compassionate with others. We may not be able to do anything about the struggles in someone’s life, but perhaps their day will be just a bit better because someone made it a point to be kind to them.
Putting others first does not have to be merely an obligation though. Believe it or not, you can find joy and satisfaction in it. God may use your behavior to encourage someone who desperately needs it. What could be better than that?
There will, of course, be times when you have to deal with someone who just doesn’t seem to be happy with anything. As you practice being gracious to everyone, you’ll find that this is the exception rather than the rule. Most people will react positively to a gentle manner, even if things get off on the wrong foot!
“A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” – Proverbs 15:1 HCSB
The next time that you’re interacting with people, whether it’s at school, work, church, or just out and about, pause for a moment and think of how you can show kindness to them. Even better, begin with your family. You may be surprised to find a change in your social interactions as you do, and you never know who God may bless through your small acts of kindness!