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Recovering kindness

An urgent virtue in a ruthless world

I spend quite a lot of time reflecting on the human capacity for evil. Perhaps that is an occupational hazard for anyone who teaches Christian ethics. Then, as an act of moral self-preservation surely connected to God’s mercy, I eventually turn to considering the virtues or practices that stand most directly in contrast to various forms of wickedness.

So in thinking about betrayal, I begin to think also about fidelity. A hard look at deception gradually gives way to exploring truthfulness, and accounts of cruelty eventually provoke reflections on hospitality.

Nevertheless, I recently surprised myself when I started to think about kindness. Kindness—as in random acts of? As in often mistaken for weakness? As in being nice? Does kindness really stand in contrast to wickedness in some substantive way? I wondered. It was after I had encountered several deeply disturbing accounts of utterly ruthless behavior that my reflections on kindness emerged.

 

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