In our sexually permissive society, it is critically important to reaffirm–clearly, firmly, and sensitively–the implications of the Sixth Commandment. Yet sometimes we may act as though Moses put an asterisk next to the Sixth Commandment, as though that’s the only commandment we really need to be concerned about. The truth is that we also live in an increasingly violent world. This has everything to do with the Fifth Commandment.
As a child preparing for Confession I would routinely pass over the Fifth Commandment. After all, I hadn’t killed anybody that month. I was completely missing the spirit of the commandment, and in fact I was (and still am) frequently guilty of injuring others in thought, word, and deed. I failed to see that just as the positive antidote to sexual sins is chastity, the positive antidote to sins of anger, strife, and violence is kindness–loving others as myself.
The kind person is obliging, meaning that he or she anticipates others’ needs. The kind person is also courteous, in that the respect he or she has for the other person is manifested in his or her conduct–everything from a polite greeting or acknowledgment of another’s good deed to being punctual and thoughtful.
Kindness also breeds cheerfulness or affability, as St. Thomas Aquinas affirms. This is actually a demand of justice to help others on their way to heaven and not allow our disposition to be a stumbling block for them. The kind person is also forgiving, patient, courageous (able to cope peaceably with difficulties and offer them as sacrifices), and agreeable, among other things.
Kindness enables us to avoid rash judgments, gossip, and brooding over injuries. We give others the benefit of the doubt and preserve their good name (cf. Catechism, nos. 2477-79).
Kindness is an indispensable part of the “new evangelization.” In his book The Hidden Power of Kindness (Sophia, 1999), Fr. Lawrence Lovasik quotes Fr. Faber, a reliable 19th-century spiritual guide, who wrote: “Kindness has converted more sinners than either zeal, eloquence, or learning; and these three last have never converted anyone, unless they were kind also” (p. 9).
Most if not all of us can point to people in our lives whose kindness opened our hearts and enabled us to be receptive to God’s saving truth.
Kindness is a distinctive characteristic of all holy men and women, and is surely a “sign of contradiction” in today’s world. Kindness impels us to live in the present moment, to practice what we preach in the most challenging of circumstances, and to lead others to Christ, one soul at a time.
As Catholics United for the Faith, let us pray that we may truly be “apostles of kindness” as we relentlessly strive to manifest the sacrificial love of God in our daily lives.
For more information on Catholics United for the Faith, visit www.cuf.org.