For a lot of my life, I didn’t make kindness a priority. It’s not that I didn’t approve of it, I just didn’t rank it very high on my list. I knew people who did good work without being very kind, and I believed that meant that one could be holy without being kind.
Two things happened: first, I spent enough time with these unkind “holy” people to see that a lack of kindness was a real deficiency. I got tired of being with them. I saw the weaknesses in their good work that could have been remedied by additional kindness. Second, I saw the same weaknesses in my own life and work.
I used to think that my efforts were like pie. I thought that in a life of limited resources, if I portioned out any of myself on kindness it would leave less left over for the other things I was trying to do. I have since learned that when we are kind, all of the resources grow because we can rely on each other and we support one another. Kindness doesn’t diminish what we have, it increases what we have.
Lately I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, and of course one of these in kindness. It might be the one that resonates least with me, to my great shame. But I don’t need to force it to grow on my own. The Holy Spirit is present to help it blossom in my heart, ready to be expressed in a care that is more than superficial niceness becomes it come from the deepest part of myself. This is the part where the best things grow through the grace of God and despite our failings. This is where we learn, if we listen carefully, that God wants so many good things for us and for our neighbor, things like kindness – and pie.