The Unexpected Gift of Kind Words
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
When my children were younger, I encouraged a “no banter” rule in our home.
While banter is generally considered good-natured and harmless, I know that teasing remarks, even made in jest, can cause deep hurt. After all, there’s usually some truth behind those lighthearted comments that could spark feelings of failure, guilt or worthlessness.
It’s easy, in an unguarded moment, to join in with banter, make an unkind comment, drop a sarcastic reply or quick-witted retort. But we often don’t stop to think about how our words might land.
A few months ago, I broke my own rule and joined in some lighthearted joking with friends. I made a quip about a friend’s tendency toward pessimism, and as soon as the words left my mouth, I knew they had inflicted pain.
My friend already knew she struggled with negativity — she didn’t need me to point it out, especially in front of others. She felt guilty and frustrated that she wasn’t as cheerfully optimistic as other women. She didn't need me to use her struggle as fuel for entertainment.
As I saw her face fall and later watched her retreat to another room, I felt ashamed. My words were cruel, not kind. They put her down instead of building her up. They caused harm, not good.
I am grateful that my friend was quick to show grace when I asked for forgiveness. She didn’t hold a grudge or try to make me feel worse than I already did. She spoke words of kindness I did not deserve.
And that’s the thing about kindness: It is always undeserved.
Our key verse, Ephesians 4:32, commands us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another.” In the New Testament, the Greek word most commonly used for “kind” has less to do with being nice and sweet and more to do with generosity and grace. It isn’t an automatic response to someone else’s good deeds but is an undeserved and unexpected gift. That’s why kind words can have such a deep and lasting impact on those who receive them.
When we know we deserve rebuke or correction but instead are offered patience or affirmation, it makes all the difference to our day.
This is what God does for us in Christ.
We were His enemies because of our sin, but if we place our faith in Him, He calls us “friends” (John 15:15) We deserve to be shut out of His Kingdom, but He invites us, “Come” (Matthew 11:28) We deserve His righteous wrath, but He offers forgiveness. (Ephesians 2:3-7)
He consistently encourages our hearts through the Scriptures with words of kindness. To the lonely, He says, I am with you. To the rejected, I love you. To the weak, I will strengthen you. To the hurting, I will heal you. (Isaiah 43:3; Jeremiah 31:3; Isaiah 41:10; Ezekiel 34:16)
Our heavenly Father lavishes words of kindness on us. And He can shape our speech so that we can learn to do the same.
Father, I often say unkind or hurtful things, but You speak words of kindness and grace. Thank You. Please help me, by Your Spirit, to use my words to show kindness that will reflect Your heart and draw others closer to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.