Relief Society Lesson 21: The Power of Kindness
Vada blogs at http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/
“[M]iracle[s] can happen and will happen when there is kindness, respect, and love. Why do any of us have to be so mean and unkind to others? Why can’t all of us reach out in friendship to everyone about us? Why is there so much bitterness and animosity? It is not a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
–President Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Need for Greater Kindness”, May 2006 Ensign
I think the subject of this lesson gets straight to the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. During His life, Jesus Christ was a wonderful example of kindness and love. He did not teach anger, bitterness or judgment. Rather than judge the woman caught in adultery he said to her accusers, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” When they all left in shame, He said to the woman, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:7-11) He himself was without sin, and could have condemned her for the mistakes she had made, but he didn’t. He forgave her. Why then do we, who have all sinned, think that we should judge others for their sins?
Jesus also taught, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
By being kind and patient, we can soften hearts and encourage others to live righteously.
George Albert Smith firmly believed in the power of kindness to soften hearts. He taught that we should “meet our problems in the spirit of love and kindness toward all.”
George Albert Smith lived by this principle in his own life. His granddaughter shared this story:
“Once on a hot summer day there was some problem happening under the street near Grandfather’s home in Salt Lake City, and some workers from the city had come to fix it. It was hot outdoors, the sun shone fiercely, and the job at hand was a pick-and-shovel kind that made the sweat pour off the men’s faces and backs as they dug into the roadway. The workers were not careful with their language, or maybe their mothers hadn’t taught them any better, but they were swearing and using terrible language. Their words soon became offensive to many of the neighbors whose windows were open to catch any breeze that might help to cool them.
“Someone went out and asked the men to stop their foul talk, and in the process pointed out that Brother Smith lived right there—couldn’t they show some respect and keep quiet, please? With that the men let loose a new string of bad words. Quietly, Grandfather prepared some lemonade and placing some glasses and the pitcher on a tray he carried it out to the struggling men with, ‘My friends, you look so hot and tired. Why don’t you come and sit under my trees here and have a cool drink?’ Their anger gone, the men responded to the kindness with meekness and appreciation. After their pleasant little break they went back to their labor and finished their work carefully and quietly.”
President Smith changed the attitude of these men not by berating them or telling them what they should or shouldn’t be doing, but by treating them with kindness and respect. When have you seen an act of kindness soften someone’s heart? What are some problems that you think could be solved with “the spirit of love and kindness toward all”?
The Spirit of the Lord is a spirit of kindness, not harshness and criticism.
I feel sad sometimes when I hear the unkind things that are spoken, not only of people in our Church, but of people in the world. Unkind things are not usually said under the inspiration of the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord is a spirit of kindness; it is a spirit of patience; it is a spirit of charity and love and forbearance and long suffering; and there are none of us who do not need all these virtues that are the result of the possession of the Spirit of our Heavenly Father.
It is so easy to criticize someone else, so easy to find fault, and sometimes we speak harshly of our neighbors and friends. Now this is what our Heavenly Father gave us … :
“Judge not, that ye be not judged.
“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
“Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?” [Matthew 7:1–4.]
President Smith taught that “we ought to be the greatest exemplars in all the world” in avoiding harsh criticism (page 226). What are some situations in which we can set such an example? In your opinion, why are harsh criticism and fault-finding so harmful?
We should look for the virtues in others and offer sincere praise.
As the Primary song suggests, we should “think to [ourselves], ‘Remember this: Kindness begins with me.’ ”
President Smith said, I stand here tonight to speak of a man who has several years ago gone home. … I refer to Francis M. Lyman [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] and I want to say to you that that great man was as tender as a baby, just as tender as a little child, and his desire to help and encourage was beautiful. I have heard him compliment his brethren many times when they have done something praiseworthy—one had delivered a fine address, another had borne a convincing testimony, another had done something else praiseworthy. I have seen him put his arm around them and say, “I am proud of you and the fine thing you have done.” Is not that a commendable way to live? That is the way to make ourselves happy. If, instead of being jealous, we see and appreciate and commend the virtues and abilities of our fellows, if we see the power for good in [others], how much better it will be.
I plead with you my brethren and my sisters, let us be generous with one another. Let us be as patient with one another as we would like others to be with us. Let us see the virtues of our neighbors and our friends and speak of those virtues, not find fault and criticize. If we will do that we will radiate sunshine, and those who know us best will love us.
Sister Mary N. Cook told of a young woman in her ward who radiated kindness and love. Because of the challenges in this young woman’s life, Sister Cook wondered how the young woman could maintain her positive attitude and outlook. The young woman answered this herself in a talk she gave, when she concluded by saying, “‘When I make Jesus Christ the center of my life, my day goes better, I’m kinder to my loved ones, and I am filled with joy.’” (Mary N. Cook, “Remember This: Kindness Begins with Me”, May 2011 Ensign)
Kindness has the power to lead people from their mistakes.
What a joy, what a comfort, what a satisfaction can be added to the lives of our neighbors and friends through kindness. How I would like to write that word in capital letters and emblazon it in the air. Kindness is the power that God has given us to unlock hard hearts and subdue stubborn souls and bring them to an understanding of His purposes.
The old saying goes, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” If we want people to listen to us, to follow our example, to take our thoughts and opinions seriously, then we must treat them in a way that makes them want to be like us. Jesus taught through love and kindness, and we should do the same. This applies to our interactions with our neighbors, our friends, and our family.
Love and kindness in our homes can lead our children to listen to our counsel.
It is our duty—I should say it is our privilege as well as our duty to take sufficient time to surround our children with safeguards and to so love them and earn their love that they will be glad to listen to our advice and counsel.
Our children, like everyone else, will react better if we treat them with kindness and respect rather than judgment.
I’d like to leave you with this quote from President Smith.
I pray that the love of the gospel of our Lord will burn in our souls and enrich our lives, that it will cause husbands to be kinder to wives, and wives to be kinder to husbands, parents to children, and children to parents because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is a gospel of love and kindness.