It is seldom seen nowadays the association of kindness with being human. The increasing violence and mass murder in schools in the United States, the deployment of young kids to be suicide bombers in radical terrorist quarters, the increasing juvenile violence among teens, the widespread phenomena, even in social media of bullying– these are some social data that invalidate whether kindness has ever been an ingredient in the recipe of being human.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), in postulating the origin of social institution began with the theory that man is by nature brutish. He is by birth, cruel, selfish and destructive. From this premise he saw social institution as agent of control to minimize this destructive tendency and harm on others. The most important thing in society is law and enforcement. Contrary to this, Aristotle (384 BC) perceived human nature as good and has potential for good. He is the repository of seeds that can be developed into virtues. Man’s inner quest for truth and goodness, once guided, can bring the best in man. Hence, for Aristotelian social institution, education takes the primary importance.
“The process of “de-egotization” through a life of self-giving and sacrifice in consecrated life, should bring out the best act of kindness from the human person.”
But is kindness really part of being human? Edith Stein (1891-1942), in her pre-Christian stage, postulated in her celebrated work, “The Problem of Empathy (1916)” that kindness as fruit of empathy is at the heart of human consciousness. The consciousness that one can experience personally pain, joy, sadness and happiness are not inferred experiences but intuitive to the human consciousness that can not be denied. But these same human experiences are also perceived in another subject (or person) as shared reality. It is empathy that validates inter-subjectivity and is primordial in forging human ethos. In other words, kindness is shown by one’s identification with the fate of another as one’s own.
The rise of “unkindness” in our society is due to the elimination of this intersubjectivity and promotes a world to be merely focussed on the “Me” and the “I”. The narcissistic tendency being fed by the social media to people, the exultation of power hunger over another, the promotion that survival is for the fittest, are some of the breeding ground to create a society that is less than being human.
Viewing this perspective through the lens of religious life, the process of “de-egotization” through a life of self-giving and sacrifice in consecrated life, should bring out the best act of kindness from the human person. The stripping of perverted selfishness intrinsic to the formation of consecrated religious should allow the best of kindness to emerge from his humanity. The constant sensitivity to one’s personal experience of pain and joy allows the consecrated religious to be sensitive to the fate of another. Indeed, it is through the whole process of bringing Christ to one’s life that the best of humanity is allowed to emerge, namely love, compassion and kindness. Kindness, is an earmark of holiness.