Probably the majority of repentances have begun in the reception of acts of kindness, which, if not unexpected, touched men by the sense of their being so undeserved.
Reading Faber, I keep returning to thoughts of school and interactions with students. And I can’t deny that there are times, based on behavior of various students, that I find myself thinking that this or that student doesn’t deserve kindness. When someone is disrupting others, making it difficult to focus on the task at hand, focusing all her energies on getting everyone’s attention, she is attempting to take opportunities away from others. It’s a myth to think that students today aren’t interested in learning — the vast majority are, keenly so. But it only takes two or three in a classroom to derail the whole process, and an incorrigible student soon draws the ire of other students and the teacher.
It is precisely at those moments that I most decidedly don’t feel like being kind. It is in those situations that the temptation to cruelty is most acute. Responses come to mind that are so ineffably and cruelly inappropriate but at the same time seem so perfect. Yet a kind word can sometimes calm the whole situation, while cruelty will only debase everyone in the room. It’s the easy way out, which is why kindness can be so difficult.
The quoted excerpt is from Father Frederick Faber’s Spiritual Conferences, excerpted here.