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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson


Photo credit to Andrew Thornebrooke on Unsplash

Kindness seems to be trending. I’ve been seeing the word on t-shirts, and the titles of so many books. Yesterday I walked past a daycare center, and there it was again. KINDNESS. From random acts of kindness, to kindness as activism, this virtue is being touted as the cure-all for our cultural moment. And maybe it is. Which sounds so simple. But is it?

It would depend, I suppose, on your definition.

There is a Hebrew word for kindness. It is the word hesed. Which, for any of you who have been following this blog for any length of time, might come as a surprise. Because maybe you remember, this is the word I’ve written a book about.

The Covenant Story: Trusting the Love of a Faithful God*

—is all about HESED.

Hold that thought.

Last week in my college lecture I talked to my students about the word, shalom. I told them a bit of our family story, and how it started with a sermon, and this life-changing statement:

Shalom is often translated PEACE. But it’s not peace the way we think of peace, it’s the peace of wholeness. Completion. Nothing missing, nothing broken. Shalom. (Maybe my next book will be about that.)

So. Next week my lecture will be about Covenant. I will tell my students my own Covenant Story, and I’ll tell them about this Hebrew word, hesed:

Hesed is often translated KINDNESS. But it is certainly not kindness the way we think of kindness. This is the kindness of covenant love.

Loyal. Steadfast. Faithful. Loving-kindness. Hesed is covenant love.

Time out for a story.

And a confession.

Last week’s blog post was all about our recent hike through the Grand Canyon. Eighteen miles round trip through snow and ice, enduring blisters and 5000 feet of elevation, and we made it. We were strong and we were brave.

But we were not kind.

Speaking for myself, since I can only make my own confession. I was not kind. That entire trip down and back, in my thoughts, as well as my actions, I was harboring resentment. I was, to be clear, annoyed with my husband. He had said some things, prior to the hike, that I had interpreted as condescending—and unkind. And I was spiteful.

(It is possible this wee bit of nasty fueled my own determination to march with strength and bravery, well ahead of my husband, the long way back up the side of that canyon. Which might seem like a sort of accomplishment, but it does not, for a fact, make the nicest memory. Looking back, I’d have rather been kind.)

Our first morning back home I stood facing our coffee pot, when my husband, unexpectedly, wrapped his arms around me. And I wasn’t sure what to do with that. So I confessed, and I told him—I just want to be kind.

The same evening we were watching TV together. There was this scene. An elderly couple. She was sick, incapacitated, at the end of life. Her husband fed her, and nursed her. Carried her into the bathroom. And a bystander watching, described what she saw as an act of kindness.


Later, Kyle and I laid in bed together, discussing that scene, and confessing. Admitting. And re-committing. This is how we want to be for each other. This kind of KIND.


Thirty-two years ago my husband and I made a covenant with each other. A promise of love and commitment—to death.

I take you Kyle, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…

It’s not kindness the way we think of kindness. This is the kindness of hesed.

Which is to say—it is the kind of kindness that lays down one’s life. The actual kindness of self-sacrifice.

And so, I ask you. Does our world need more kindness? Is kindness the cure-all for our cultural moment?

It would depend, I suppose, on your definition.

*The Covenant Story of the Bible begins and ends with the love of a faithful God. The whole story is wrapped up in this conclusion—we can’t, but He can. Because of the hesed lovingkindness of our God, as demonstrated in the person of Jesus, we are invited into a miracle story. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we can actually becoming sacrificial lovers to the people in our lives. We can be KIND.

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