Fruits of the Spirit: Kindness (1)

19 Aug

What does it mean to say the Spirit creates or produces kindness?
I would like to suggest a few things I think I have learned about kindness. But I hasten to say this is not a claim to sort of moral virtue, on my part. On the contrary.
Kindness is about a generosity of spirit, which seeks the best for another, and it often arises from experiences of one's own good fortune or a sense of having received kindness, or forgiveness.
I find I can understand something of this, when I think about what stops or prevents kindness.

It is difficult to be kind to others when we are hung up on ourselves. That may be because we are in pain, or deeply anxious about something. We may be feeling a need to protect or defend our situation. Or we may simply be self-obsessed, as truly many of us are, a lot of the time.
You can't be kind to others if you don't really see or hear them, for themselves.
If you are always looking for what you can get, you won't see their need, nor will you see what you have to give. You will be always trying to hold on, and get more.
Not everyone who is in that situation is selfish or self-absorbed. Sometimes people have every right to focus on their own situation or need, or maybe upon the need of someone close to them. I think of a person who has the difficult task of caring, night and day, for a family member who is disabled or seriously ill. I can understand that they may not feel able to be generous towards people who are needy, such as the poor or homeless.
But the truth is that it is precisely these people who are often very generous. Somehow, kindness emerges from experiences of suffering, or need, or importunity. In my own experience, people in church groups in poorer suburbs or towns so often give more generously to their church,  but also to other causes and missions, compared with wealthier people.
What does this signify? I think it means that such people have a genuine sense of their own good fortune. They feel graced. They sense that they have been given at least something, and because of this sense of grace, of having received, they feel able to give.
There is a close relationship, too, between kindness and a sense of having been forgiven, having received a second chance, in some sense.
These are ways in which the Spirit evokes kindness. It is God's spirit amongst and within us which helps us to see our lives as graced: we are given each new day, to fill with meaning and deeds of hope. We are given health, strength, and opportunity. We are blessed with people to share the journey. We are loved. These gifts ought to produce in us a sense of blessing, to be shared.
So why does it not overflow, in me, and in all of us who are rich in things, or money, or other talents?
What holds back the potential of kindness within?
Only, I think, our blindness to these things already mentioned, and our selfish obsession with getting and holding on.
However, it is not by an act of moral will that we will overcome that blindness. There is a sense in which this has to be a choice, but it needs to be more than that.
I am deeply abhorrent of 'kindness' that arises from a sense of duty.Kindness that is motivated by 'ought' is cold charity. It is a dead hand, and so often it makes its recipients feel worse, even if it may provide their immediate needs. No, such kindness does no one any good. I find that kind of virtue irksome, to be honest.
Kindness needs to emerge from more than duty. It needs to flow. It needs to come from the miracle within, which moves me from getting to giving, from holding on to giving away, from concern with myself to a genuine self-forgetting, self-giving. This is the way of God. This is what God shows us in Jesus. This is the way of the Spirit.
It is the Spirit who produces such kindness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *