Picking up on some things I said in my recent Grace Agenda conference talk “Smashing Patriarchy,” I wanted to reiterate something I said about fatherly and masculine kindness and contrast it with the prevailing notions of effeminate niceness and winsomeness.
But first, just to make sure we’re all speaking the same language, you should recall that like the word “wicked,” “smashing” can have different meanings depending on the context. We say that something is “wicked” and it might mean evil, but if we say that something is “wicked fast” or someone is “wicked smart,” we mean they are amazingly fast or smart. Likewise, “smashing” something may mean it is destroyed, but if you describe a party as “smashing” or someone as “smashing,” you mean they are outstanding or impressive.
So we want to smash all counterfeit versions of kindness: effeminate niceness and winsomeness and flattery, and we want a smashing kindness, an impressive, excellent, splendid fatherly kindness.
One of the distinguishing marks of godly patriarchy is kindness. God is the Father Almighty, and all fatherhood is derived from Him (Eph. 3:14-15). And God is known particularly for His kindness. Psalm 103 says, like a tender Father, God remembers our frames and removes our sins as far as the east is from the west. We are mere dust and fading flowers, but the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. Godly patriarchs are known for their compassion, forgiveness, and mercy.
Fathers, cover over the mistakes of your people as much as possible, the way God covers yours. This doesn’t mean ignoring real problems, but it means covering lots of sins in love and confronting some sins in love, but in either case doing it all with joy and kindness. Whether you are confronting sin in love or covering sin in love, you may not do it with a bad attitude, grudging, or grumbling under your breath or in your heart or out loud.
Remember the father in the parable of the prodigal, looking down the road for his wayward and rebellious son. What had the father been thinking about all that time, while his son was squandering his inheritance in worthless living? The father wasn’t preparing a lecture. He wasn’t preparing a sermon. He wasn’t preparing punishment. He was preparing a hug and a party. He was preparing for joy. That’s fatherly kindness.
Kind fathers give good gifts. Jesus says that we being evil know how to give good gifts to our children, and our Father gives the Holy Spirit and all good things freely when we ask (Mt. 7:11, Lk. 11:13). Be a man of gifts, of good surprises, presents, and generosity. Do not give beyond your means, but definitely give more than is reasonable. Give without keeping track. Give and don’t bother with the fact that lots of your gifts go by the wayside and end up at Goodwill. God gives and gives, and He isn’t bothered by the fact that we can’t enjoy all His gifts all the time. This is the grace and kindness of godly patriarchy.
The kindness of fathers is also particularly displayed in affection. We live in a world that really is starving for love, for kindness, for grace. And so many women and children go looking for it in all the wrong places. We know that the love they seek is ultimately in the Father through Jesus. But that is why the hugs and kisses and touch of earthly fathers are so potent. In a world of all kinds of inappropriate touch, fathers must cultivate appropriate physical affection. Fathers tickle their young children. Fathers wrestle their boys. Fathers hold their girls and kiss their cheeks and hold their hands. Fathers put fists on the foreheads of their boys and pinch their ears and put them in headlocks. Fathers swing children around and throw their babies in the air and catch them (because they can). And this is fatherly kindness.
Fathers give the gift of kindness through joy and laughter. I have a terrible memory for jokes, and so the joke around our house is to see how many times you can tell dad a joke that he can’t remember the punch line to and still laughs like it was the first time he ever heard it. By the way, dad jokes are the best jokes and don’t let up. Don’t stop. That’s your job. That’s what you are for. It’s how you lead with joy and kindness.
Conclusion: The Difference Between Niceness & Kindness
Some friends asked after my talk what I think the difference is between fatherly kindness and effeminate niceness. And I said that I think the difference is that the former is active, intentional, and aimed at a positive goal, whereas the latter is passive, defensive, and largely trying to avoid conflict.
Kindness is masculine because it takes courage, planning, assertiveness, and intentionality. It is aimed at a particular goal. Kindness is masculine because it seeks to initiate blessing, forgiveness, and encouragement. Whereas niceness is effeminate because it is largely passive, reactive, responsive, and trying to keep everyone happy.
Kindness is also personal, whereas niceness is generic and impersonal. Masculine kindness takes responsibility for the needs of particular people and seeks their personal good, but niceness is vague, bland, and actually avoids responsibility. Niceness avoids conflict at all costs, but kindness can have true enemies and real conflict and love them and do good to them all at the same time. Kindness is truly selfless, seeking the good of others no matter the personal cost; niceness is self-seeking, trying to protect personal comfort or reputation.
God the Father rejoices over His Son, and so all faithful fathers must rejoice over their families. God the Father chose all those He would save in and through His Son, and of those He has personally chosen, He will not lose a single one. That is the kindness of the Father, not merely Him being nice. In fact, God is not particularly nice to the nations plotting against Him, since He laughs at them and holds them in derision and promises to smash them like potters vessels, but it truly is a kind and gracious command, ordering them to kiss His Son, in whom is their salvation. Therefore, faithful fatherhood, faithful patriarchy isn’t nice, but it is supremely kind. Faithful fathers laugh at the world, laugh at the Devil’s schemes, laugh at all the cultural and political folly, and then they gladly lay down their lives for the good of their people. And that really is a smashing kindness.
Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash
Toby, Thank you for this post on masculine kindness. Something I needed to hear and gives me some godly perspective on how a man is kind without falling into the manipulative and weak characteristic known as niceness. I do have a question. Are you saying niceness is an inferior feminine virtue or would that be a misunderstanding of your use of the word effeminate? By effeminate do you mean the corruption of the masculine traits or a feminine trait? Hope I’m making myself clear.