Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control.” You may have heard about the fruit of the Spirit and wondered what it is and how it relates to our Christian faith.

In this series, each fruit will be explored and related to our everyday lives. Just like physical fruit need time to grow, the fruit of the Spirit will not ripen in our lives overnight. As we mature in our faith, all the characteristics of our spiritual fruit will grow as well.

The fifth fruit of the Spirit is kindness. True kindness is taught to us in Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each another, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

So, just how important is kindness? In a study of 37 cultures around the world, 16,000 subjects were asked about their most desired traits in a mate. For both sexes, the first choice was kindness. Acclaimed psychologists John and Julie Gottman gathered data on successful marriages for decades and found that kindness was essential to a lasting union.

But, what is kindness? It begins with caring, being tenderhearted and compassionate. The Greek word for ‘kind’ is chrestos—meaning ‘useful.’ This means that kindness involves action. Truly kind people will actively look for opportunities to show kindness.

Whether it’s paying for someone’s coffee at the drive-through behind them or writing a note of encouragement to a friend, kindness requires action. Of course, action can also include words—words of encouragement, comfort, courtesy and compliments can be heartwarming acts of kindness.

Jesus Christ practiced kindness that was considered radical for that time and culture. His kindness often extended to the people that were not treated well, including the sick, poor and social outcasts. He healed them, prayed with them and fed them.

Just like Jesus, we should practice kindness, even something as small as a smile at a passing stranger. We should continue to ripen our fruit of kindness in the footsteps of Jesus, who personified the greatest example of kindness.