Skip to content

KEEPING THE FAITH | How to embrace kindness as a lifestyle

The Golden Rule encourages us to treat others with respect, kindness and fairness. It is advanced by the concepts of compassion and empathy.
The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin

It is hard to imagine but there was a recent time when we looked forward to renting videotapes.

Yeah, I pretty much dated myself. Each tape had a sticker affixed that said, “Please be kind and rewind” 

It was not a requirement, but a hope that one would be mindful of the next viewer’s desire to enjoy the same experience. The sticker was in essence a visual appeal to the renter to be considerate of others.

The Golden Rule is the moral principle and practice of treating other people as one's self would prefer to be treated. It is considered to be one of Jesus' most profound and impactful teachings. He taught in Matthew 7:12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

The Golden Rule encourages us to treat others with respect, kindness and fairness. It is advanced by the concepts of compassion and empathy. Its basic principle is that you would extend yourself to others as you want to be done to you. Kindness is a virtue that is embraced by many cultures and religions. 

Kindness is the ability to display concern for others without expecting praise, recognition or reward. 

I also believe that within the Golden Rule, we should treat others as they wish to be treated. I try not to presume to know what is best for someone, especially if their approach is not the same as mine; I try to honor and respect their preference. 

In third grade at Mary Haddow Elementary School, a classmate untied my shoe in a failed attempt to be funny. However it was not known, but my younger sister tied my shoes for me daily!

Raising my hand in horror yet without shame, upon being acknowledged I said, "Mrs. Phifer, Anthony untied my shoes and I don't know how to tie them!"

I don't remember her immediate response but we were then given classwork to complete independently. It was then she took me to a private area and observed my unsuccessful attempts to tie. She quickly realized that I was left-handed trying to tie like I was right-handed!

It was not on her lesson plans for the day or within the curriculum to teach ME a skill others had already mastered in kindergarten! Without judgment or scorn, she taught me how to complete this once difficult task!

Recently I recalled the impact of that episode several times on the same day yet on different occasions. While I have long acknowledged this act to her directly, I felt led to further express my appreciation in a tangible way.

My Granny often said, "Give me my flowers while I can smell them!" It is a blessing that Mrs. Phifer still lives within walking blocks of my home. As an educator, she lived among the students she taught. Hence, I arrived at her home with a floral arrangement unannounced!

It was Lewis/Louie standing at her door, but she kept addressing me as "Rev. Macklin" After excusing myself for the impromptu visit, I shared my appreciation for that impactful teaching moment. 

She recalled the moment as well, saying "I was not going to let him do that to you again!” This act also effectively took away the power of the bully. I remain grateful for her intentional response of kindness. Four decades later I still vividly recall her single act of empathy.

We have been bombarded in the midst of this pandemic with a series of unnatural disasters — the human acts or inactions which cause harm or aggravate circumstances which are in our control. Even the wearing of face masks to protect others has become a contentious act for some.

The Golden Rule is reinforced and stated in the Old Testament as well. Leviticus 19:18 admonishes, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” While we can debate the justification or gross injustice of any one conflict, I am disheartened when I think of the devastation created by wars motivated by racial or religious hatred.

The local and national news has reported numerous examples of inhumane domestic aggression and insensitivity with increasing episodes of violence, racial strife, sexual harassment, civil unrest, marginalization of victims and intimidation. These behaviors demean the victim and damage our civic life. Flashes of aggression in word and deed can be life-changing. 

We all become less when these offenses are perpetrated. I contend that preventing conflict should be one of the most important human aspirations.

Be kind especially to unkind people — they need it the most. Kind words can heal the heart and mind. Luke 6:35 directs us to “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great." 

Pope Francis said it well, “Let us learn to live with kindness, to love everyone, even when they do not love us.” The true reward of being good to others is spreading some joy and offering hope. 

John Wesley once said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”  

Even when things seem to be in disarray, God still finds a way to show love and kindness. As we are made in His image, we have the ability to do the same to others.

The world is demanding us to be kind especially under the pressure given the climate in this country and the extraordinary pressure we are all under. We all need to give each other a lot more mercy! We have been through some challenging times where we must constantly reassess, recalculate and readjust things differently in real-time.

The late Rev Lonnie Kwajo Asim Simon, the pastor emeritus of the New Bethel Baptist Church and was recognized in the community as The People’s Pastor for his stalwart advocacy for humanity. He was an accomplished author and poet in his own right. However he would frequently conclude public gathering with a recitation by Charles Meigs entitled “Others” 

Lord help me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way
That even when I kneel to pray
My prayer shall be for – Others.

Help me in all the work I do
To ever be sincere and true
And know that all I do for you
Must needs be done for – Others.

Let “self” be crucified and slain
And buried deep; and all in vain
May efforts be to rise again
Unless to live for – Others.

And when my work on earth is done
And my new work in heaven’s begun
May I forget the crown I’ve won
While thinking still of – Others.

Others, Lord, yes others
Let this my motto be
Help me to live for others
That I may live like Thee.

We must embrace kindness as a lifestyle so that in the event of conflict, kindness would ebb naturally from us instead of forced politeness or attempting to be nice without being offensive. Proverbs 16:23-24 “From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive. Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” I contend the best medicine for the world today is kindness so please administer a generous dose often!

I honor the legacy of civil rights icons Reverend C. T. Vivian and the honorable U.S. Rep. John Lewis who passed away within hours of each other. These men were central figures in the early struggles of America’s Civil Rights Movement. These agents of change used their platforms to show the world how it could be better using the approach of non-violence. Both valiantly faced while experiencing violent bigotry as they walked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the cause of equality.

They displayed the essence of the Golden Rule during a time when it was not extended to them. As Congressman Lewis stood earlier this year, battling terminal cancer, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday he issued a challenge to the conscience of America to “get in good trouble, necessary trouble” Remember it is always your choice whether to be an instrument of peace or a tool of torture. Choose wisely and keep fighting the good faith!

— Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II is the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department and coordinator of the Mahoning Valley African American Male Wellness Walk. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of 5 children and 6 grandchildren.

All biblical references cited are New Living Translation unless otherwise noted.