One of my favorite quotes on kindness is pretty simple: “Be kind. You never know what someone’s going through.” In their 1984 book Encouragement: The Key to Caring, Dr. Larry Crabb and Dr. Dan Allender write about how much of our interaction with others happens between layers we put on to hide our true selves, rather than between the deepest parts of our selves. We intentionally don’t let others know what we’re going through. Although the above quote probably wasn’t common when the book was written in 1984, the authors definitely had the idea in mind when they wrote about how we might imagine eavesdropping on the thoughts of others as we arrive at church on Sunday morning. Such imagining might help us realize how much people encouragement and kindness everyone really needs. They wrote that we might hear thoughts like these:
“Oh, no! There’s Fred pulling up in his car. If he sees me, he’ll ask me for that committee report I haven’t done yet. I’d better move inside quickly and get seated.”
“I wish my husband weren’t away on that business trip. It’s really uncomfortable coming to church without him. Well, I’ll just sit in the back and leave as soon as the service is over.”
“I sure hope the preaching is better than it’s been the last few weeks.”
“This should be a really good day. No work that needs to be done. I like our church and the football game is on TV at 3 this afternoon. That gives me time to take the family out to dinner and still be home for the kickoff. I really like being a Christian.”
“I wonder if I should keep coming to this church. I really haven’t made any friends and the sermons don’t do much for me. Well I’ll keep praying about it and see how it goes today”
“Look at that happy young family. It really hurts when I realize my kids are grown, gone, unsaved, and mixed-up. Boy, I wish I could have a few years back. Well I can’t start crying now. Cmon, smile-here comes Nancy to say hello.”
“People think of me as a pretty spiritually together person. I’ll make a point to interact graciously and to respond in a biblical way to whatever happens.”
While we can’t (and shouldn’t) eavesdrop on thoughts, imagining it reminds us that we really don’t know what’s going on behind other people’s layers, and they don’t usually know what’s behind ours.
Therefore, “Be kind. You never know what someone’s going through.”
 Crabb, Larry and Dan Allender. Encouragement: The Key to Caring (1984). P. 95-96.