Lent 2012: Day 3

Reading

Such is kindness. Now let us consider its office in the world, in order that we may get a clearer idea of itself. It makes life more endurable. The burden of life presses heavily upon multitudes of the children of men. It is a yoke, very often of such a peculiar nature that familiarity, instead of practically lightening it, makes it harder to bear. Perseverance is the hand of time pressing the yoke down upon our galled shoulders with all its might. There are many men to whom life is always approaching the unbearable. It stops only just short of it. We expect it to transgress every moment. But, without having recourse to these extreme cases, sin alone is sufficient to make life intolerable to a virtuous man. Actual sin is not essential to this. The possibility of sinning, the danger of sinning, the facility of sinning, the temptation to sin, the example of so much sin around us, and, above all, the sinful unworthiness of men much better than ourselves, these are sufficient to make life drain us to the last dress of our endurance. In all these cases it is the office of kindness to make life more bearable; and if its success in its office is often only partial, some amount of success is at least invariable.

It is true that we make ourselves more unhappy than other people make us. No slight portion of this self-inflicted unhappiness arises from our sense of justice being so continually wounded by the events of life, while the incessant friction of the world never allows the wound to heal. There are some men whose practical talents are completely swamped by the keenness of their sense of injustice. They go through life as failures, because the pressure of injustice upon themselves, or the sight of its pressing upon others, has unmanned them. If they begin a line of action, they cannot go through with it. They are perpetually shying, like a mettlesome horse, at the objects by the roadside. They had much in them; but they have died without anything coming of them. Kindness steps forward to remedy this evil also. Each solitary kind action that is done, the whole world over, is working briskly in its own sphere to restore the balance between right and wrong. The more kindness there is on the earth at any given moment, the greater is the tendency of the balance between right and wrong to correct itself, and remain in equilibrium. Nay, this is short of the truth. Kindness allies itself with right to invade the wrong, and beat it off the earth. Justice is necessarily an aggressive virtue, and kindness is the amiability of justice.

Thoughts

The burden of life presses heavily upon multitudes of the children of men and very often, we are the ones adding additional weight to that load.

No slight portion of this self-inflicted unhappiness arises from our sense of justice being so continually wounded by the events of life. We see this daily in the classroom, where twenty-some fourteen-year-old sense of justice collide, often enough with the authority figure. “Everyone else is talking!” proclaims a frustrated young man when called down. We see this daily on the road, and often enough, participate in the injustice, when someone cuts another off or fails to accelerate quickly enough to please us. We feel this when we find that our tax return is not quite what we expected, not quite what seems fair. And all of these injustices are the extent to which the vast majority of us in the developed world ever experience. Yet these are bearable burdens.  There are many men to whom life is always approaching the unbearable.

Each solitary kind action that is done, the whole world over, is working briskly in its own sphere to restore the balance between right and wrong. Perhaps this is the ultimate human answer to the problem of evil: as authors of evil, we can also be creators of kindness, and the latter cancels out the former.

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