Scripture for Today
But my trust is in you, O God;
I say, “You are my God.”
The sin opposite the virtue of kindness is, interestingly, envy. The word chrestos, meaning kind, also carries a connotation of usefulness and fitness in the original Greek of the New Testament. So why is envy its opposite? Envy stems from the belief that if only we have what someone else has, we’ll be complete. It puts us in competition with other people, and separates us from them, all the while in pursuit of something that can’t complete us anyway.
Kindness, on the other hand, is unselfish movement toward relationship, a disposition toward wanting another person to flourish. Kind feelings are good, certainly better than envious ones, which can leave us angry and bitter. But kindness is much more than a feeling. It also requires action, in the way that a tool can be very useful – but only if it is used. Kindness becomes virtue only when it is exercised. There is a selflessness about it that is very akin to hospitality. It requires us to look outside ourselves, to ask what someone else needs, whether that be a drink of water, a word of encouragement or appreciation, or gracious acceptance of a gift. Kindness can also consist in action ordered toward abolishing an unjust situation, such as refusing to cross a picket line even if that results in inconvenience. The action is what makes it useful, and fitness for use is what results from acting.
Virtues are like muscles. They get stronger with use, and bring us more in tune with what we ourselves are made for, which is to be in relationship with God. If we are consumed with envy – that is – worried about what we lack and figuring out how to compete or come out ahead – then where’s the room for God?
Let us instead be kind and useful, for that is what Love is, and that is what we are created to be. Opportunities abound.
–Baya Clare CSJ