On Pursuing Virtue: Kindness

Author’s note: We have written about virtues before (see https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/on-pursuing-the-virtues-an-introduction/), and now we are continuing the series. There are so very many virtues for us to acquire! Fr. Thomas Hopko’s book “The Orthodox Faith, Volume 4, Spirituality,” offers additional virtues, some of which we will now study. May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us grace as we learn to better walk in His ways!

Fr. Thomas Hopko’s chapter on kindness begins with the statement that spiritual people are kind, always gentle, and never cruel in any way. But kindness is more than a fruit of the Spirit evidenced in the life of humans who are following God: God Himself is kind! And He is not just kind to the good. Luke 6:35 reminds us that He is “kind to the ungrateful and selfish.” That’s pretty much everyone, at least at some point in life!

We Christians are encouraged to accompany God in kindness. This is most important when we are helping others to see an error that we have noticed in their life. Fr. Thomas mentions that we can usually put on a kind front for those we don’t know well. But the people who we are the closest to may more easily receive an unkind response or reaction from us. These people are the ones who need our kindness the most, and he encourages us to extend kind words and actions to them, as well as our more casual acquaintances. He says that there is never an excuse to be insensitive or harsh to anyone, regardless of how close we are to them.

Fr. Thomas goes on to clarify that kindness doesn’t mean glossing over or ignoring other people’s sins. Instead, he says, it means that we forgive them. He also states that kindness will not always look like “being nice” to others and going along with them in whatever they do. Sometimes a truly kind person needs to set others straight if they are doing something that is wrong. The person’s kindness will shine through by the way they convey care to the person doing wrong, even in the midst of this correction. He says that a kind person’s correction will not have any cruelty, demeaning, ridiculing, or condemning. Instead, a truly kind person will correct another with encouragement and gentle understanding.

Kindness to all others, lived in this way, is a tall order. May God help us to grow in the virtue of kindness. When we do, we will be able to truly love all others as kindly as He does!

Find Fr. Thomas Hopko’s discussions of kindness here: https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/the-virtues/kindness

Here are some scriptures, quotes from saints, and quotes from Orthodox resources that can help us as we work on attaining the virtue of kindness in our own life:

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“For His merciful kindness is great toward us, And the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 117:2 NKJV)
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“What is desired in a man is kindness…” (Proverbs 19:22 NKJV)
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“‘With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,’ says the Lord, your Redeemer… ‘For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has mercy on you.” (Isaiah 54: 8, 10, NKJV)
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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Gal. 5: 22-23 NKJV)
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“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Col. 3: 12, 13 NKJV)
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“Conquer men by your gentle kindness, and make zealous men wonder at your goodness. Put the lover of justice to shame by your compassion. With the afflicted be afflicted in mind. Love all men, but keep distant from all men.” ~ St. Isaac the Syrian
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“Do not despise any man, however poor he may be; but behave with full respect and kindness to every well-intentioned man, especially to the poor, as to our members worthy of compassion — or, rather, to members of Christ — otherwise you will cruelly wound your soul.” ~ St. John of Kronstadt
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“Do not allow yourself for a moment to have any ill-feeling against anyone; always be kind to everyone, conquering your evil disposition by the love that endureth all things and conquereth all things.” ~ St. John of Kronstadt
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“Evil and faults are corrected by good, by love, kindness, meekness, humility, and patience.” ~ St. John of Kronstadt
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“You cannot be too gentle, too kind…” ~ St. Seraphim of Sarov
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“A man who is wrathful with us is a sick man; we must apply a plaster to his heart – love; we must treat him kindly, speak to him gently, lovingly. And if there is not deeply-rooted malice against us within him, but only a temporary fit of anger, you will see how his heart, or his malice, will melt away through your kindness and love – how good will conquer evil. A Christian must always be kind, gracious, and wise in order to conquer evil by good.” ~ St. John of Kronstadt
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“Acts of kindness and generosity are spoilt by self-esteem, meanness and pleasure, unless these have first been destroyed by fear of God.” ~ Saint Kosmas Aitolos
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Concerning kindness, St. Nilus of Mt. Sinai writes: “My son, always strive to be simple and kind. Do not have one thing in your heart and another thing on your tongue for this is a ruse and a lie. Be truthful and not false for falsehood is of the evil one. Do not return evil for evil but if someone does you evil, forgive him so that God may also forgive you. If you are tormented by the remembrance of evil thoughts, pray to God for that brother [the evil doer] with your entire soul and the remembrance of evil thoughts will flee from you.” It is told how a young man decided to serve a very eccentric old man so that God would forgive him of his sins. He endured twelve years in this most difficult service and presented himself to God. A great spiritual man saw the soul of the young man in Paradise as he was praying to God for the evil old man: “Lord, as You had mercy on me because of him, have mercy on him according to Your great goodness and because of me Your servant.” After forty days this eccentric old man died and, again, that spiritual man saw the soul of that old man reposing in the Kingdom of Heaven. What a most beautiful and miraculous kindness of this patient youth in truth, miraculous!
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“Many have heard of “random acts of kindness,” but how many of us take it seriously enough to make kindness a priority in our lives?” Read this short article on how to begin immediately checking ourselves to ensure that we are living kindly: http://ww1.antiochian.org/node/18269
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Need some ideas for working together as a family to kindly surprise others? Check out this blog from years ago: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/try-a-little-kindness/

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