Suffering Kindly

Father Faber notes that the person who suffers patiently and kindly performs an act of kindness upon those who witness the suffering. Consider how “the thoughts of the dying mother are all concentrated on her new-born child.” Her kind suffering is “a beautiful emblem of unselfish holiness.”

Moreover, Faber keenly observes that “everybody’s cross is shared by many. . . . We see our own crosses on other people’s shoulders, and overwhelm them with kindness accordingly.” For instance, “it is not we who have been tossing wakeful all night that are the sufferers, but the poor nurse who has been fighting all night against the sleep of health by our bedside.”

“Kind suffering is, in fact, a form of kind action, with peculiar rubrics of its own. But if all kindness needs grace, kind suffering needs it a hundredfold. Of a truth those are rare natures which know how to suffer gracefully, and in whose endurance there is a natural beauty which simulates, and sometimes even seems to surpass, what is supernatural. To the Christian, no sight is more melancholy than this simulating of grace by nature. It is a problem which makes him thoughtful, but to which no thinking brings a satisfactory solution. With the Christian kind suffering must be almost wholly supernatural. . . . There is a harmonious fusion of suffering and gentleness effected by grace, which is one of the most attractive features of holiness.”

“With quiet and unobtrusive sweetness the sufferer makes us feel as if he were ministering to us rather than we to him. It is we who are under the obligation. To wait on him is a privilege rather than a task. Even the softening, sanctifying influences of suffering seem to be exercising themselves on us rather than on him. His gentleness is making us gentle. . . . We have all the advantages of being his inferiors without being vexed with a sense of our inferiority. What is more beautiful than considerateness for others when we ourselves are unhappy? It is a grace made out of a variety of graces, and yet while it makes a deep impression on all who come within the sphere of its influence, it is a very hidden grace. It is part of those deep treasures of the heart which the world can seldom rifle.”

“To be subject to low spirits is a sad liability. Yet, to a vigorous, manly heart, it may be a very complete sanctification. . . . When the very darkness within us creates a sunshine around us, then has the Spirit of Jesus taken possession of our souls.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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Kindness With Effort

Father Faber notes that most kind actions require no effort, but when they do require effort, we ought “to keep the effort out of view.” He advises: “We should never repeat to others our good actions. If we do, their heavenly influence over ourselves goes at once. Neither does it simply evaporate; it remains as a dead weight. . . . When men begin to thank us, we should playfully stop their thanks, but not stiffly or unreally.”

“There are some men who would feel awkward and uncomfortable if they were not allowed to pour out their feelings. Such men we must not check. It is part of the discernment of good manners to find out who they are, and the perfection of good manners to be natural and simple under the operation of being praised.”

“Being praised puts us for the most part in a ludicrous position. Either it mortifies us by a sense of inferiority, or it makes us suspicious by a feeling of disproportion, or it unseasonably awakes our sense of humour, which is always in proportion to the honest seriousness of those who are praising us. The fact is, very few people know how to praise, and fewer still know how to take it.”

“We should never dwell upon our kind actions in our own minds. God is in them. They have been operations of grace. God is shy of being looked at, and withdraws. When we are tempted to be complacent about them, let us think of the sanctity of God and be ashamed. Let us dwell on His attribute of magnificence, and be especially devout to it. We shall thus keep ourselves within the limits of our own littleness, and even feel comfortable in them.”

“The grass of the fields is better than the cedars of Lebanon. It feeds more, and it rests the eye better. . . . . Kindness is the turf of the spiritual world, whereon the sheep of Christ feed quietly beneath the Shepherd’s eye.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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The Hidden Life of Kind Actions

Father Faber observes: “Spiritual persons who specially cultivate kindness are singularly exempt from delusions. Yet delusions form the most intricate and baffling part of our spiritual warfare. But the instinct of kindness is never baffled. No position ever seems new to it, no difficulty unforeseen. It appears to be dispensed from the necessity of deliberating. It follows the lightning-like changes of self-love or of the temper with a speed as lightning-like as their own. It sees through all stratagems. It is for ever extemporizing. . . . It always has light enough to work by, because it is luminous itself.”

“Besides this, kindness has an intrinsic congeniality with all the characteristics of the higher spiritual states. Kind actions go upon unselfish motives, and therefore tend to form a habit of disinterestedness in us, which prepares us for the highest motives of Divine love. . . . Like God’s goodness, they are constantly occupied where there is no hope of payment and return.”

“As God acts evermore for His own glory, so kind actions, when they are habitual, must very frequently be done for Him alone. It is their instinct to be hidden, like the instinct of His providence. . . . God often rewards them by arranging that they shall be unrequited, and so look only to Him as Himself their recompense. . . . He even shrouds our kind actions for us by letting us look stern or speak sharply, or be quick-tempered in the doing of them. . . . Who does not see that we are here right in the midst of the motive-machinery of the very highest spiritual condition of the soul?”

Father Faber notes: “Social contact has something irritating in it, even when it is kindliest. Those who love us are continually aggravating us, not only unintentionally, but even in the display of their love. Unkindness also abounds, and is of itself vexatious. Something goes wrong daily. It is difficult even for sympathy not to exasperate. Consolation is almost always chafing. . . . What a field for sanctification all this opens out to us!”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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Stumbling First Steps

Father Faber states: “When we read the lives of the saints, or ponder on the teaching of mystical books, we shall surely have no difficulty in admitting that we ourselves are but beginners.” And beginners on the road to spiritual perfection are especially prone to make two mistakes.

The first mistake is this: “Beginners like to turn their eye away from outward conduct to the more hidden processes of their own spiritual experiences. If we allow a beginner to choose his own subject for particular examen of conscience, he will generally choose some very delicate and imperceptible fault, the theatre of which is almost wholly within, or some refined form of self-love whose metamorphoses are exceedingly difficult either to detect or to control. He will not choose his temper, or his tongue, or his love of nice dishes, or some unworthy habit which is disagreeable to those around him. . . . This leads to hardness of heart, to spiritual pride, and to self-righteousness. It has a peculiar power to neutralize the operations of grace, and to reduce our spirituality to a matter of words and feelings.”

“The second mistake is very like the first, though there is a difference in it. It consists in giving way to an attraction which is too high for us. It is not that we divide things into outward and inward, and exaggerate the latter. But we divide them into high and commonplace, and are inclined almost to despise the latter. We fasten with a sort of diseased eagerness upon the exceptional practices of the saints. Peculiarities have a kind of charm for us. We try to force ourselves to thirst for suffering, when we have hardly grace enough for the quiet endurance of a headache. We ask leave to pray for calumny, when a jocose retort puts us in a passion. . . . We traffic with exceptions rather than with rules. Hence the common moral virtues, the ordinary motives of religion, the duties of our state of life, our responsibilities toward others, the usual teaching of sermons and spiritual books, are kept in the background. We are too well instructed to speak evil of them, or to show them contempt, but we treat them with a respectful neglect. Thus our spiritual life becomes a sort of elegant selfish solitude, a temple reared to dainty delusions, a mere fastidious and exclusive worship of self whose refinement is only an aggravation of its dishonesty. No saint ever went along this road. . . . The grace to be indistinguishable from the good people round us is a greater grace than that which visibly marks us off from their practices or their attainments.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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The Immense Value of Kind Actions

Father Faber notes: “It seems to be an almost universal fallacy among mankind, which leads them to put a higher price on kindness than it deserves. Neither do men look generally at what we have had to give up in order to do for them what we have done. They only look to the kindness; the manner is more to them than the matter. . . . The very world, unkindly as it is, looks at kindness through a glass which multiplies as well as magnifies. I called this a fallacy; it is a sweet fallacy, and reminds us of that apparent fallacy which leads God to put such a price upon the pusillanimities of our love. This fallacy, however, confers upon kind actions a real power. The amount of kindness bears no proportion to the effect of kindness. The least kind action is taller than the hugest wrong. The weakest kindness can lift a heavy weight; it reaches far, and it travels swiftly.”

“Every kind action belongs to many persons, and lays many persons under obligations. We appropriate to ourselves kind actions done to those we love, and we forthwith proceed to love the doers of them. Nobody is kind only to one person at once, but to many persons in one. What a beautiful entanglement of charity we get ourselves into by doing kind things!”

“Neither is a kind action short-lived. The doing of it is only the beginning of it. . . . Years of estrangement can hardly take the odour out of a good action. . . . It is not an uncommon thing for a man at the end of half a century to do a kind action because one was done to him fifty years ago.”

“There is also this peculiarity about kind actions, that the more we try to repay them, the further off we seem for having repaid them. The obligation lengthens, and widens, and deepens. We hasten to fill up the chasm by our gratitude; but we only deepen it, as if we were digging a well or sinking a pit. We go faster still; the abyss grows more hungry; at last our lives become delightfully committed to be nothing but a profusion of kind actions, and we fly heavenwards on the wings of the wind. There is a pathetic sweetness about gratitude which I suppose arises from this. It is a pathos which is very humbling, but very invigorating also.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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How Kind Actions Save Us

Father Faber remarks: “Graces from God, kindnesses from men; we seem to have stood all our lives under the beneficent drippings of these beneficent showers. . . . Kindness has again and again done the preliminary work for grace in our souls. . . . The thought of all the kindness of so many persons to us sometimes grows to be almost intolerable because of the sense of our own unkindness. These kind actions have been to us like importunate Angels. They have surrounded us almost against our own will, and done us all manner of unasked good, of extra good, of good apparently unconnected with themselves. From how many evils have they not also rescued us? We know of many, but there are many more of which we do not know.”

“Can we not now see in the retrospect steep places down which we were beginning to fall, and a kind act saved us, and at the time we thought we had stumbled over a stone by the way? We are indeed very far from what we ought to be now. But it is frightening to think what we might have been had parents, friends, nurses, masters, servants, schoolfellows, enemies, been less kind than they have been. . . . Feeling that we ourselves owe all this to the kindness of others, are we not bound, as far as lies in our power, to be putting everyone else on all sides of us under similarly blessed obligations?”

“It is not hard to do this. The occasions for kind actions are manifold. No one passes a day without meeting these fortunate opportunities. They grow round us even when we lie on a bed of sickness, and the helpless are rich in a power of kindness towards the helpful. . . . Hardly out of twenty kind actions does one call for an effort of self-denial on our part. Easiness is the rule, and difficulty the exception. When kindness does call for an effort, how noble and self-rewarding is the sacrifice! We always gain more than we lose; we gain outwardly, and often even in kind. But the inward gain is invariable; nothing forfeits that. Moreover, there is something very economical about the generosity of kindness. A little goes a long way.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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A Multitude of Kind Actions

Father Faber remarks: “There is always one bright thought in our minds when all the rest is dark. There is one thought out of which a moderately cheerful man can always make some satisfactory sunshine, if not a sufficiency of it. It is the thought of the bright populous heaven. There is a joy there at least, if there is a joy nowhere else. There is true service of God there, however poor and interested the love of Him may be on earth. Multitudes are abounding in the golden light there, even if they that rejoice on earth be few. . . . Then let us think that there are multitudes in heaven to-day who are there because of kind actions; many are there for doing them, many for having had them done to them.”

“It is amazing to consider the number of kind actions that have been done to us; they are almost beyond our counting. . . . Under what various circumstances too, they have been done to us! They have come to us together with blame, as well as been the accompaniments of praise. They have made our darkness light, and our light brighter. They have made us smile in the midst of our tears, and have made us shed tears of joy when we were laughing carelessly. They have come to us also from all quarters. They have reached us from persons in whom we might have expected to meet them. They have reached us from unexpected persons who would naturally have been indifferent to us. They have reached us from those from whom we had every reason to expect the opposite. They have come to us from such unhoped-for quarters, and under such an affecting variety of circumstances, that each one of us must have seemed to himself to have exhausted the possibilities of kindness. The thought of them all melts our hearts.”

“Now, every one of those acts of kindness has doubtless done us a certain amount of spiritual good. If they did not make us better at the time, they prepared the way for our becoming better, or they sowed a seed of future goodness, and made an impression which we never suspected, and yet which was ineffaceable.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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