An Advent Thought on Kindness

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This season of advent usually inspires many people to examine their lives in the context of giving and kindness. Both are under the umbrella of charity, the virtue so connected to Christmas. God’s love is the overwhelming virtue of the season reflected in the gift so freely given to us in Jesus when He came among us. What about kindness? What does it really mean? Why is it helpful to meditate on kindness during this season of the year?

It seems that kindness is often conflated with generosity and charity and certainly there is a related connection tying all three virtues. But the essence of kindness is not quite the same as generosity and charity. For instance, when we are generous, we give—we give of our abundance and our poverty. We perceive a need in someone, or a group and we are impelled to diminish that need as best we can. Sometimes we give and forget about it. Charity can work the same way. We are moved to respond to a need because we truly feel a love, a bonding, between ourselves and the person suffering. Again, we can provide love and move on. This doesn’t make us less charitable or loving; it just shows us that we respond beautifully when we see need.

But kindness seems to be a shoot among these virtues whose root is sui generis to its existence; kindness is root, stem, and action all together. While you can be charitable or generous at a moment’s notice, you usually do not assume kindness at a moment’s notice. It is simply there. Kindness is your soul, not part of it. Kindness is in your eyes and speech, not part of them. Kindness, therefore, comes from a well deep within. Kindness governs you. It never leaves you unprepared to give or to love. Kindness precludes judgment without evidence, kindness forgives without being asked, kindness sees the good and the beautiful in every creature of God. A person once said to me, “I wish I could be as nice to people all year round as I am during the Christmas season!” “Well,” I responded, “you have to work on kindness. You have to find in yourself the thread that will strengthen generosity and love with kindness.” The philosopher Eric Hoffer said, “We are made kind by being kind.”

You may not have enough resources to give to the many causes that come before us at this time. You may not have the ability to stand in line serving hot meals to the homeless or to ring the bell outside the local grocery for the Salvation Army appealing for donations. You may not be able to help in decorating the house or the church. Your cookie baking days may be over and even the skills of wrapping presents and sending cards are long past. But you can be kind. You can be kind to those around you and to perfect strangers who need to see your smile. You can be kind during dinner discussions and comforting and affirming to those around your table. Kindness is always at work within us if we are open to changing our lives from being unduly critical or judgmental; if we are open to giving others a ‘second chance.’ Kindness works in us when we have rubbed the salve of understanding into our very souls. It is a medicine of sorts that calms us decrying anxiety and energizes us replacing pessimism. Kindness gives everyone the ‘benefit of the doubt.’

Reflection  

Advent is a fertile time to reflect on whether I am kind or need to work more on being kind. As I grow in kindness, I will look it. I will exude the warmth of a person who really believes in following Jesus. My very presence will welcome people I encounter. They don’t have to like my religion or approve of my politics; they don’t have to agree with my cultural tastes or even like my family! But they will find a peace when encountering me, an acceptance, an open heart, and open hand. They will have found a kind person. That’s the goal. And it should last all year—and the rest of one’s life. People know when you are a kind person the moment you speak, the moment you let them into your galaxy of love. “In her tongue (or his) is the law of kindness.” (Proverbs 31:26)

Pray to be kind. Accompany Mary as she travels to Bethlehem and experiences both kindness and unkindness. Think of the times when someone was kind to you. Enjoy reflecting on times when you were kind to others.   

Most of all, ask for the grace to grow in kindness. Now and then take stock to determine if you are growing in kindness.

To all my readers and Anonymous Angels, may you find peace and genuine love this holy time of advent. Quiet yourself. Take time to enjoy the slow, sharp advance of winter as you grow closer to God.

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Path towards light

Spiritual reflections through self-development, nature, meditation and dreams

Kimberly Novak, Author

Creating Gems of Inspiration - All for the Glory of God

CSJLife | All Things Vocations

with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Louis

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