Chapter 4 – Kindness
In speaking to you of kindness I am reminded of a great writer who claimed that children knew no pity. He had just been witness to a boy despoiling a nest of linnets, treating the helpless little birds with great cruelty. And this opinion is often repeated because it is too often true. As a matter of fact kindness is not often met with amongst children. Many of them are selfish, thinking only of their own welfare, never of that of others; there are others even who are really malicious and take pleasure in doing harm to persons, animals and things. It is true that much of this may be due to a want of reflection and of experience, natural at your age. Many are selfish and inconsiderate without meaning to be so exactly, for want of understanding that they cause suffering. You have not as yet suffered much, perhaps not at all, and this is why you are indifferent to the sufferings of others, you do not appreciate what suffering means. Later on, after you have grown up, and will in your turn have passed through trials and sufferings, you will understand better the sufferings of your fellow creatures, and kindness and pity will not be strange to you. But while lacking the actual experience you are by no means excused from combating your natural evil propensities, and from practising kindness. It is indeed one of your important duties. Remember that you are soon going to receive Him who is called the merciful God.
This mercy of God manifests itself so much in the life of the Divine Jesus. How kind Jesus was! Kind in His welcome to all men, to the sick, to the sinners; kind in His words, ever tinged with mercy and compassion: kind in His actions, which tended to cure the sick, console the afflicted, feed the hungry.
Remember above all how kind He was to little children! How tenderly He embraced them and blessed them, and how graciously He invited them with the words “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” And how kind He will be to you on the day of your first Communion, so good, indeed, as to give Himself wholly to your souls, in order to lavish upon you all His graces and blessings.
But how could you venture to approach this good and kind God if your hearts are hard and unkind? How could this Jesus who is kindness itself, take delight in the souls of children where uncharitableness dwells?
If kindness is the essential attribute of God, malice, on the contrary, is Satan’s chief quality. To do wrong, to be bent upon injuring others, to destroy, to deface things, to take pleasure in seeing tears shed, and to enjoy lamentations and groans, is the delight of the devil.
He is called the evil one, and he is the father and the teacher of all those who are malicious and wicked. You should therefore have a horror of evil and malicious doings, and if you find in yourself any inclination for them be on your guard, and shun even the least sins of this kind. It is so infamous, so mean, so disgraceful to take pleasure in the sufferings of others! Is it not horrible to torture animals to amuse yourself by seeing them suffer? Who soever has no feeling for the dumb beast, neither has he any for his fellow men.
One of the most cruel of the Roman emperors had, as a boy, found pastime in catching flies and pulling out their wings; in this manner he learned to enjoy cruelty, and when emperor he satisfied his evil and fiendish inclinations by torturing and killing his subjects. In contrast to this, let me tell you of a little girl who one day entered the confessional. The priest saw that she was in tears and he had considerable difficulty in finding out the cause of her trouble as the child sobbed with all her might and could only utter words disconnectedly. At length, however, the priest learned that she accused herself of having killed, on first impulse, a little bird that had fallen from the nest. This cruel act immediately caused her sorrow; she was so ashamed of herself, that she had to unburden her conscience of what she considered a crime. Ever since she has had great consideration for animals. I hope that you will imitate this little girl, and not the ferocious emperor of whom I told you before.
With far more care you must avoid doing harm, or causing suffering to your brothers and sisters, or to companions. To treat others brutally, to strike or injure them, to knock them down, these are actions which can only be accounted for as originating in an ugly and malicious disposition, of which one should be ashamed. Sometimes, no doubt, such nasty actions begin in play, and becoming heated, a butt is made of one of your companions, several array themselves against him, overpower him, tears flow, and that seems sport to the others; they insult and mock him and the more he suffers the better pleased the others are.
Such behavior as this is by no means a rare occurrence, and really shows the savage in you. Those who witness such treatment are saddened by it, and as for yourselves, if such incidents with all their details were photographed by snapshot, you would at once see that you have very little to be proud of in taking the part of an inhuman persecutor. Therefore avoid brutal and boisterous behaviour and make up your mind, once for all, to do harm to no one.
Yet this is not enough; do not be satisfied to avoid brutality and to combat your quick impulses, strive also to practise kindness. Do all the good you can, to everybody. In the same degree as unkindness is ugly, so kindness is attractive, and there is really no one who does not sometimes feel inclined to practise it. “When God made the heart of man He placed in it, first of all, kindness,” says the great writer Bossuet. That is why, although we may have become wicked in consequence of sin, there still remains in us an inclination towards kindness. Obey this inclination and develop it, allow yourselves to be borne along by the delight which on experiences in doing good. It is truly a great inner satisfaction, and at the same time kindnesses secures for us the sympathy and affection of those about us, and this worldly advantage is not to be despised, either. Let your thoughts be kindly, judge others with kindliness.
Be kind in your talk; use kind words to your good parents. Children sometimes unwittingly grieve the hearts of their fathers and mothers. “My boy is fairly good,” said a mother to me the other day, “but I do not know whether he loves me, he never says anything kind to me.” Speak kindly also to your companions, be polite and pleasant to inferiors, and to the poor.
In conclusion, prove your kindness, furthermore, by doing many a gracious act, such as rendering trifling services to friends, to fellow pupils at Sunday school. Give, when allowed to do so, little presents, give alms, visit sick friends with your parents’ permission, or write letters to them, etc. If you mean to practise kindness, and if you earnestly strive to do good, the opportunity will certainly not be wanting. Just as in calling God merciful we are attributing to Him His great goodness, so if you deserve that it be said of you that you have a kind heart, it will mean that you are good and it will bestow upon you the highest praise possible, because a kind heart will love God and neighbor, and thereby fulfil the greatest of the commandments.