It’s no accident that they are found together in Proverbs 3:3, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” I began to think of the profound wisdom of keeping these two qualities together and in balance. The need for each of them (and in right proportion) is seen in so many life issues and relationships.
The first area where I considered the need for kindness and truth is evangelism. I was reminded of the saying “People won’t care what you know till they know that you care.” But conversely, it won’t really matter how much you care if you don’t know what you’re talking about! If the actual truth of the gospel isn’t present in what I say and do, then any kindness on my part isn’t even real kindness.
In parenting, kindness and truth as a pair is crucial. Many a kind parent (i.e. gentle, loving, thoughtful, even sacrificial) has failed to convey truth or neglected to have their child seriously confront the truth claims of Scripture. One father recently told me he loved his kids too much to “force religion on them,” and that he wanted to give them the freedom to choose for themselves. This is puzzling in a way because you can’t “give” an autonomous person freedom to choose what to believe. God has already given every person that freedom; it just is. So, again, we see that kindness devoid of truth is no kindness at all.
Now, to consider an imbalance in the reverse as it applies to parenting: There are parents who have a grasp of truth, who are right in their knowledge and teaching, but who are not kind. Rather, they are harsh, demeaning, even abusive. Their unkindness will surely drive their children away from the very truth they wish to instill. None of us can impart truth to our children with perfectly measured kindness at all times. We fail. We see our own desperate need of grace. But this grievous imbalance is one factor contributing to children of my generation leaving the church in droves.
How does this package of kindness and truth impact the marriage relationship? I think for many of us it is most difficult to be kind to the people we’re closest to, especially our spouses. Even the servant-hearted, nicest-person-you-know woman at church may be essentially a shrew in private communication with her husband. Many husbands and wives have a dangerous preoccupation with being right. It stems, I believe, from an honest desire to be understood, to have our opinions and feelings validated, but it skews the balance of kindness and truth toward truth. Particularly tricky is that it’s often the individual’s own version of the truth he or she is clinging to, and an actual objective understanding of the situation eludes them.
What if, in the midst of marital conflict, I could remember this exhortation about kindness and truth? Then, I would not only be careful to understand and speak the truth, but I would choose words both kind and respectful, I would have a gentle and pleasant demeanor, I would offer the kindnesses of truly listening and readily forgiving.
One last consideration of the kindness and truth connection led me to think about God’s work in accomplishing our salvation. He has given us Truth in Scripture, we need to understand the ultimate concrete truth of His substitutionary work and payment for our sin, and He IS the Way, the TRUTH, and the life. But, recall Romans 2:4; it’s His KINDNESS that leads us to repentance. Thank God for His perfect example of the beautiful unity of kindness and truth!