The Value of Kindness

Father Faber emphasizes the value of kindness in the spiritual life. He says: “Kindness does so much for us that it would be almost more easy to enumerate what it does not do than to sum up what it does. It operates more energetically in some characters than in others; but it works wondrous changes in all. It is kindness which enables most men to put off the inseparable unpleasantness of youth. It watches the thoughts, controls the words, and helps us to unlearn early manhood’s inveterate habit of criticism. It is astonishing how masterful it is in its influence over our dispositions, and yet how gentle, quiet, consistent, and successful. It makes us thoughtful and considerate. Detached acts of kindness may be the offspring of impulse. Yet he is mostly a good man whose impulses are good. But in the long-run habitual kindness is not a mere series of generous impulses, but the steadfast growth of generous deliberation. Much thought must go to consistent kindness.”

“With most of us the very outward shape of our lives is, without fault of ours, out of harmony with persevering kindness. We have to humour circumstances. Our opportunities require management, and to be patient in waiting to do good to others is a fine work of grace. It is on account of all this that kindness makes us so attractive to others. It imparts a tinge of pathos to our characters, in which our asperities disappear, or at least only give a breadth of shadow to our hearts, which increases their beauty by making it more serious. We also become manly by being kind. Querulousness, which is the unattractive side of youthful piety, is no longer noticeable.” Kindness is “the high-tide of the soul’s nobility.”

Finally, Father Faber notes that kindness is a “participation of the spirit of Jesus which is itself the life of all holiness.” Kindness “reconciles worldly men to religious people.” But kindness is “too often left uncultivated because men do not sufficiently understand its value.” Unfortunately, “men may be charitable, yet not kind; merciful, yet not kind; self-denying, yet not kind.” He remarks: “Kindness, as a grace, is certainly not sufficiently cultivated. . . . Kindness is the grand cause of God in the world. Where it is natural, it must forthwith be supernaturalized. Where it is not natural, it must be supernaturally planted.”

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

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