Kindness is the best resolution


January 2018 will have had some of us commit to ‘new year resolutions’. Others will see the future as a clean page, a blank calendar, waiting to be written on. The brand new year has come, but what will we do with it? What difference will it make?
I know we will have made some ‘resolutions’. But before we start tracking all the kilos we won’t lose and the cigarettes we won’t quit and the miles we won’t be walking on the treadmill, allow me to offer another humble suggestion for a new year’s resolution. Consider simply ‘being kind’ as a New Year resolution.
Mark Twain famously expressed his opinion that kindness is something that binds: ‘it is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see’. When you think of kindness, what comes to mind? An encouraging note sent by a friend? A caring shoulder to cry on? Or maybe Mum’s chocolate cake fresh from the oven? Whatever you think about, it most likely includes a warm feeling. Kindness just does that. When we’re kind, others get to experience that warmth and, whether they realise it or not, they’re experiencing some of God’s character.
If we read St Paul’s letter to the Galatians we see that the Fruit of the Holy Spirit is a biblical term that sums up nine attributes of a person or community living in accord with the Holy Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” No wonder that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. Through the life of Jesus Christ, we see the greatest, most complete picture of kindness we’ll ever know.
Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, and together, remember that the other person is not a statistic or a number. The other person has a face. The “you” is always a real presence, a person to take care of.
There is a parable Jesus told to help us understand the difference between those who’d rather not be bothered and those who take care of the other. I am sure you will remember it well. It is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus was asked: “Who is my neighbour?” – namely, “Who should I take care of?” – he told this story, the story of a man who had been assaulted, robbed, beaten and abandoned along a dirt road. Upon seeing him, a priest and a Levite, two very influential people of the time, walked past him without stopping to help. After a while, a Samaritan, a very much despised ethnicity at the time, walked by. Seeing the injured man lying on the ground, he did not ignore him as if he weren’t even there. Instead, he felt compassion for this man, which compelled him to act in a very concrete manner. He poured oil and wine on the wounds of the helpless man, brought him to a hostel and paid out of his pocket for him to be assisted.
The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of today’s humanity. People’s paths are crossed with suffering, as so much is centred on money and things, instead of people. And often there is this habit, from people who call themselves “respectable,” of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road.
Fortunately, there are also those who are creating a new world by taking care of the other, even out of their own pockets. St Teresa of Calcutta actually said: “One cannot love, unless it is at their own expense.”
Pope Francis explains in a TED talk on YouTube: “We have so much to do, and we must do it together. But how can we do that? Thank God, no system can nullify our desire to open up to the good, to compassion and to our capacity to react against evil, all of which stem from deep within our hearts”.
Now you might tell me, “Sure, these are beautiful words, but I am not the Good Samaritan, nor St Teresa of Calcutta.” On the contrary – we are precious, each and every one of us. Each and every one of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God. Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle; a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.
To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow. Kindness will bring Hope which is the door that opens onto the future.
Pope Francis continues: “Kindness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Kindness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, therefore the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other. There is a saying in Argentina: ‘Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.’ You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness. Through humility and concrete love, on the other hand, power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.”
“The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognise the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us.’ We all need each other. And so, please, in this New Year, let us think of each other with kindness, so that we can fulfil the tasks we have been given for the good of the other, of each and every one, of all of us!”
Based on insights and quotes from Pope Francis’ TED talk :

- Bishop Les Tomlinson, Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst