Many have heard about "random acts of kindness." How many take it seriously enough to make kindness a priority in their lives? St. Paul reminds us about the return of "God's kindness to [us], provided [we] continue in his kindness (Rm 11: 22). But some still resist.
Kindness is a central factor in so many traditions. The Talmud notes: "Deeds of kindness are equal in weight to all the commandments." The Koran notes: "There is a reward for kindness to every living animal or human." In the Buddhist tradition Ashoka writes: "…kindness to living beings should be made strong and the truth should be spoken."
I will give one example: unkind communication. Some assume in order to make a point they have to speak in anger, harshness and rudeness. (Morelli, 2006b) Clinical psychologists (Beck, Shaw & Emery, 1979), point out that the basis of this misperception is significant intrusion. The value of what they consider significant is such that they feel they have a "right" to be angry. This is an exalted state of self-importance by which people define themselves which gives them this "right." It reveals an underlying postulate of self-definition that allows all anger to be justified.
Spiritually, such misconception of one's value is the vice of pride. One saint of the Eastern Church, St. John of the Ladder, (1982) has told us: "Pride is a denial of God, an invention of the [evil one], contempt for men."
Is there an alternative to angry communication? Yes, assertive communication: an honest and true communication in a socially acceptable tone and demeanor. Only when a soft-tone response fails to bring about the desired result should words be said more firmly. (Morelli, 2006a) However, keep in mind, the key is not to cross the angry tone barrier. The writer of the Book of Proverbs (15:4) tells us: "A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit." Relating to others can be done, in the words of St. Paul to the Galatians (5: 22-23), in "patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Kindness is pleasing both to God and man.
Beck, A.T., Rush, S., Shaw, B. & Emery, G (1979). Cognitive Therapy of Depression. NY: Guilford Press.
Morelli, G. (2006, July 02). Assertiveness and Christian Charity.http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/MorelliAssertiveness.php
Morelli, G (2006c). Healing: Orthodox Christianity and Scientific Psychology. Fairfax VA : Eastern Christian Publications.
National Institute of Mental Health (2006). http://www.nimh.nih.gov/
St. John of the Ladder. (1982), John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent. NY: Paulist Press.
V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist, Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, (www.antiochian.org/counseling-ministries) and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion. Fr. George is Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.