Our culture is suffering from a lack of kindness, says Southern Gospel singer Scott Fowler.
The lead singer and co-founder of Legacy Five came to this realization in his car one day after unwittingly enraging another driver. Immediately after that road-rage encounter, Fowler reached out to a friend, songwriter Jim Brady.
“I remember sending him a text and saying, ‘I want you to write me a song about kindness because we have a deficit of kindness in our world,’” Fowler says. That experience kickstarted an entire album about kindness and love. The project has since won a Dove Award and has two songs nominated for “Song of the Year.”
Why So Angry?
Fowler’s unexpected encounter with road rage that day caused him to wonder, “What’s causing this increasing unkindness? And why do people seem more on edge than ever before?” Unkindness is rooted in sin (e.g., Romans 3:23, 5:12), but recent events are also playing a role. Because of that, Fowler has come up with a couple of theories:
We’re facing greater social and political tension.
The past year and a half have not been kind to many people. Not only did the pandemic take millions of lives and jobs, but it also took a toll on people’s mental health, with symptoms of depression three times higher during lockdowns.
Add to that an extremely heated election season, and you can imagine why unkindness is such a problem right now.
Social media impacts our communication.
With the rise of social media, people find it much easier to blast negative opinions and harsh words, even toward strangers. Social comments and posts allow people to be unkind without having to face the person or deal with the immediate emotional fallout.
“Same with texting,” Fowler says. “Also, folks can’t interpret your tone. So you’re really at risk of being misinterpreted because they can’t hear how you’re saying something. … So if they misinterpret that tone and then respond in kind, now you’re escalating a situation, which was never the intention.”
The Antidote to Unkindness
The best way to encourage kindness is to lead by example, Fowler says. Even simple actions—like smiling, offering an encouraging word to a friend, paying for a stranger’s meal, or giving to a person in need—can make a bigger difference than we realize (e.g., Proverbs 15:1).
The inverse is true, too. When we refuse to engage in unkind behavior, it speaks to those around us. For example, when a conversation begins to slip dangerously close to gossip, we can kindly but firmly refuse to let it continue in that direction.
“You’re saying, ‘I want to be part of the solution. I don’t want to be part of the problem,’” Fowler explains. “Your words of encouragement can encourage other people to give up the old ways of doing things and start being part of the solution.”
But as believers, we can’t stop there. After all, Christians aren’t the only ones who know how to be kind. No, we are called to a much higher standard. We’re called to love.
Secular Kindness vs. Christian Love
The Word of God makes it clear that kindness is a crucial component of love: “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4a, ESV). But on a practical level, what does that mean?
The world, borrowing from Christ (e.g., Luke 6:31), says kindness is doing good to your neighbor, treating them as you would want to be treated, and in recent decades, affirming their values and way of life, whatever they may be.
But Paul describes love and kindness differently. In the context of sharing the Good News—even if it made him seem out of his mind—he says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” (2 Corinthians 5:14, ESV).
As Christians, kindness looks like loving people like Jesus loves them and being willing to speak up when their sin is keeping them from God. The key, Fowler points out, is “speaking the truth in love,” just as Ephesians 4:15 commands.
“Our job is to try to be a consistent believer in front of [unbelievers],” he says. “Then let God work on their hearts to make them say, ‘I think I would benefit from being a person like that.’ Then you can point them to Christ and say, ‘The only way to do this is through Christ. He alone gives you the strength to be who you need to be.’”
Come be encouraged as you worship with Legacy Five and listen to powerful preaching at 40 Days & Nights of Gospel Music! Tickets on sale now at: 40daysofgospelmusic.com.