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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