Friday, May 3, 2013

Counterfeit Kindness

I don’t know about you, but I have learned a lot myself as I have written these past few posts. We have looked at self-centered lust that often substitutes itself for other-centered love. We have considered how happiness often masquerades as joy. We have seen how avoidance is the counterfeit of peace. Finally, we the “real deal” spiritual fruit of hope-filled patience being supplanted by hopeless mere resignation. Let’s continue now with the fifth in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. Let’s consider what counterfeit often passes itself off as kindness.
Mangoes are probably my favorite tropical fruit. Deliciously sweet when ripe, I really don't enjoy the green mangoes which are eaten here with a spicy sauce. Spicy fruit just doesn't appeal to me. "Real deal" ripeness is what I love.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22-23)
We all enjoy people who are kind. They are pleasant to be around. Kind people will reach out with help where help is needed. Kind people are considerate, careful of the feelings of others. Someone who exemplifies the spiritual gift of kindness has these things rooted in their character. Such a person sounds like someone I’d like to be around. How about you?

I’d like to point out one of those descriptions that, when out of balance, turns kindness into a counterfeit. Kind people are careful of other people’s feelings.

OK, so what is wrong with that? Shouldn’t we be careful not to hurt the feelings of others? Yes…and no.

Yes. We should not carelessly trample on the feelings of others. We should not put others down in order to build ourselves up. Doing such things brings us into the realm of the harshness, the opposite of kindness. We are not talking about opposites in this series. We are talking about counterfeits. That brings us to “no”.

No. When we are so afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings that we neglect to speak a correcting word when it is needed, that is not kindness. We may say all kinds of positive things about the person to make them feel good. We seem to be kind. But when our silence leaves unsaid something that really needs to be said to help the other person grow, this counterfeit kindness ceases to be the “real deal” fruit the Holy Spirit wants to grow in us.

Let me give two examples:

It’s Snowing Down South

Have you ever heard that expression? I haven’t heard it used in a while, but it can provide a simple, if somewhat humorous, example of a choice between real kindness and counterfeit kindness (silence).

You are at church, and you see the female choir director walking down the hall. She is nicely dressed in a navy blue skirt and jacket, but has one obvious problem. Three inches of white slip is showing from under the hem of her skirt. You know that when she stands up to lead the choir, those three inches will stand out like a waving flag. What do you do? If you point this out to her, she will probably be immediately embarrassed. 

Counterfeit kindness would stay quiet and hope she realized the problem on her own without anyone having to embarrass her. Genuine kindness might slip up beside her, lean over and whisper, “Excuse me, but it’s snowing down south…” (or whatever expression would be understood in your geographical area.) She may be embarrassed for a moment, but that embarrassment would be nothing compared to how she would feel if she found after the choir number that the “blizzard” had been seen by the entire congregation.

That example is kind of frivolous, I admit. Let’s go now for something more significant.

Give It To Us Straight

Earlier today, I was asked to serve as interpreter for a group of people trying to work through the legalities of starting a foundation that will run a training center. Besides myself, there were three Indonesians in the group and one American, who speaks very little Indonesian -- thus the need for an interpreter. After about ninety minutes of discussion, the American asked me, in so many words, what I saw as the greatest obstacle to getting the foundation off the ground.

How was I going to answer? If I were operating in counterfeit kindness, I would have only talked about the great goals they have, and the heart I see in them for the children they want to serve. I could have been very positive, and given them a big feel-good pep rally. Indeed, there is much to be positive about.

That is not what they needed, though. That is not what they asked for. I was asked to give it to them straight. I could have been silent about something I saw in their interactions that could cause problems down the road. That would not have been genuine kindness, though. So I shared what I saw…and I was able to share it in a gentle, positive, hopefully constructive way. They graciously received what I said. At least, I know the American did. I’m reasonably certain the Indonesian man did, too.

Speaking the Truth in Love

In the previous example, the way was wide open for me to address something I saw as a problem. What happens, though, when our input is not requested, but we see a problem that really does need to be addressed? We can’t run around sticking our noses into everyone’s business. If we do that, we cease to be kind, and becomes blatant “busy-bodies”.

That question is far too complex to cover in this blog post. All I can say is that before we step in where we have not been invited, we must cover the situation in prayer, and seek God’s wisdom as to how…and if…and when…to get involved.

If God says “Go,” we then step forward with a patient attitude, and speak the truth in love. (Don’t you love the interaction of the spiritual gifts?)

Counterfeit kindness will stay silent when truth about something that is not quite right needs to be spoken. “Real deal” kindness is willing to speak up for the good of the other person. This is not always easy. But as a community of believers lives out the one anothers, “real deal” kindness will encourage each one to grow, and mature, and become more like our Lord.

Time for Reflection

  • Where would you rate yourself on the following “Kindness Scale”?  
  • Ask God what you need to do to move closer to “real deal” kindness in your relationships. Ask the Holy Spirit to grow this true spiritual fruit in you.
  • Can you think of a better term than "silence" to describe counterfeit kindness?


  1. Yeah, well, uh...I just posted about my "brutal honesty" in terms of people's romantic relationships. Guess I'm like a 9.5 in that category. But I'm better in other areas, really I am...

    1. I guess "brutal honesty" with yourself could be a good thing.

  2. Hi Julie,

    I like your phrase "Counterfeit kindness" because you have brought out the truth about what kindness really is. I do believe the biggest struggle is silence. Just like the example you gave "it's snowing down south" - if we are silent, we are not being so kind.

    Reading this reminds me of when people are talking harshly about a person or a group of people. If we stay silent, we are just as guilty as they are. We can speak up or speak out when this happens. I have in the past, and it sure felt good to me not to be part of the negativity.

    I think that if we keep our mindset on God and what is expected of us to be truly kind to others,it becomes a habit.

    Thanks for such a refreshing article.


    1. You are so right. Too often, we keep silent when we should speak up. Counterfeit kindness and counterfeit gentleness (i.e. wimpiness) can often go hand-in-hand. It takes strength and courage sometimes, to be truly kind.


Any thoughts on this post? I would love to hear from you.

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