Massassauga Provincial Park, Ontario Canada - Photo by Carey Nieuwhof

I had an ‘aha’ moment a few years ago.  It was many years in the making, so let me save you some years and frustration if I can. In fact, let’s share our collective wisdom and save us all some heartache.

I doubt that there’s a single parent who doesn’t agree that kindness is a virtue.  The challenge is not to get us to agree that kindness is a good thing.  The challenge is to be kind.

For years I was puzzled by why my kindness would wax and wane.  So I tried different things:

I tried harder

I read my bible more

I prayed more

All of these had some impact, but not nearly what I had hoped.

Then I noticed a pattern.  The greater the margin I had in my life, the kinder I became.  The less margin I had, the less kinder I grew.  For me and my wiring, margin = kindness.

Margin is the white space in your life.  It’s surplus.  If you have margin, you can get caught in traffic and still be on time for your meeting. Want to stress a couple out?  Take the margin out of their finances.  Want to stress a parent?  Cram ten hours worth of parenting/housework/tasks into a six hour window.  Who’s kind after that? Really?

The tension is that parenting is complex, challenging and demanding.  Your child is rarely (okay, never) going to create margin for you. You have to create it for yourself.

When was the last time you:

Had a date night with your spouse?

Sat around for real conversation with a friend who is life giving to you?

Spent an hour doing something just for you?

Carved out time to refresh your relationship with God?

Hit the gym?

Here’s what I’ve learned…without margin, the stress I feel inside spills out on the people around me.  With margin, its so much easier to be kind.  Which should be no surprise.  I believe the scripture says something about resting for one seventh of your life if I’m not mistaken.

More than any other single factor, for me, it’s margin = kindness.

Your turn:  fill in the blank.  For you,  __________ = kindness.