The sixth in our series on the Christian virtues, the antidote to the seven deadly sins.
In my opinion kindness is the most important of all the virtues. As Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’. Christianity without kindness is hollow, cold and legalistic, yet with the kindness that Jesus brings it is dynamic, warm and understanding. There is no other system of thought that contains as much truth about the human condition as Christianity.
Kindness can easily be misconstrued as a weakness but it’s a strength. The kind person has utter security in themselves and their own identity and therefore has no issue putting others first. Very often the most unkind people will be those who have been damaged and mistreated, whilst the kindest people are from a loving family. This is a generalisation: of course many kind people have been mistreated themselves and therefore know how painful unkindness is and how blissful kindness can be.
Kindness is putting someone first and wanting what is best for them. Therefore, what kindness isn’t ‘do what you want’. That’s not kindness but washing your hands of someone, saying in effect ‘I don’t care what happens to you’.
G K Chesterton says in Orthodoxy that the problem with the modern age is not that the Christian virtues have been eradicated but rather that they have all gone rampaging off on their own. Kindness is most effective when it comes with the truth, hence the old idiom that it’s sometimes cruel to be kind and kind to be cruel.
The truth directs kindness along its rightful path whilst kindness tempers the truth so that it does not become harsh and counter-productive. There is a big difference between saying ‘Love, let’s go for a run together’ and ‘You look like a walrus’.
Kindness is not just giving people what they want but working out what is best for them in the long run. Again an old idiom comes in handy: give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you’ll feed him for life. Many aspects of Western life fall into the category of short-term solutions for long-term problems.
But there really is very little more attractive in a person than a genuine act of kindness, particularly when they don’t know they are being watched. I love this story of a group of Canadian girls taking an old woman out with them. OK, so they broadcast it all over social media but it’s still a lovely story and one of those little acts of kindness that can make a person’s day.