Comfort & Counsel

Home  Articles  Site map


by Jacob Ninan

"I fear thy nature, it is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness, to catch the nearest way," said Lady Macbeth to her husband (Shakespeare’s Macbeth). She considered kindness to be too babyish for grown up realities. She wanted him not to stop even at murder for achieving their goals. However now when we use the phrase ‘the milk of human kindness’ we attribute better qualities to it, such as being humane, humanitarian, philanthropy, etc. But all is not well in this area as this milk seems to be getting curdled more often than not.

In attempts to become (and appear to be) more and more humane, societies seem to be trying to outdo one another in a show of kindness. This would have been good except that kindness is not something that can stand alone, without an appropriate balance from other virtues such as prudence (wisdom), righteousness, etc. If humaneness is supposed to produce something good for the others, overblown humaneness actually hurts them. Perspectives focussed narrowly on kindness miss the elements that are meant to keep society balanced. This milk is getting curdled. Let us look at some examples.

A human child has such a great potential for thinking, understanding and achievement if he/she is nourished, helped and guided to find the right groove. Without such focussed attention coming from the parents, the ‘independent’ personality develops in warped ways, with self-centredness sitting on the throne. We now have abundant evidence for this all around us. Yet the current wisdom of this world advocates avoiding ‘intervention’ and promotes individual development unencumbered by rules or regulations. Discipline is taboo in today’s society and is getting equated with parental abuse. Parents who try to enforce order are tabbed as being cruel and authoritarian. The little dictators calling the tunes at home and driving the parents crazy are supposed to be ‘cute’! Isn’t this a clear example of human kindness going astray? The problem is that ‘discipline’ usually becomes an expression of the parent’s anger or frustration (and therefore abuse), and it is punitive rather than corrective. But how good it will be when it is carried out with self control and based on a strong foundation of love and affection which the child understands?

Crime And Punishment
Punishment is meted out to criminals or others who violate the law in order to teach them a lesson not to repeat their folly and to deter others from doing similar things. But what happens when, in the name of being kind and understanding towards the ‘unfortunate victims’ of an imbalanced society, sentences are reduced to the minimum, criminals are let go for mere technical reasons, jails are provided with the latest TV and internet facilities to keep the occupants cheerful, and NGOs are more interested in the welfare of the prisoners than their victims? No wonder the crime rates are only going up! Of course the society has to deal with the conditions that breed criminals and also do the best possible to rehabilitate the unfortunate people who end up in crime. But should it be overdone to the extent that there is no real fear of punishment for crime?

Relaxation Of Moral Laws
In the guise of being understanding and non-discriminatory towards all human beings, homosexual relationships and live-in arrangements are being afforded a legal standing, not thinking ahead of the social chaos these type of moves can create in the future. It is not only the government legal machinery that is going in this direction but also churches! Pre-marital sex and divorce are also becoming acceptable in churches. We mustn’t judge, they say. Isn’t being judgmental different from taking a stand on moral values? If Jesus was a friend of sinners, so should we be, but He never condoned their sins.

Relaxing Standards
There is a need to make higher education and jobs available to all who want. Apparently one way to do this is to reduce the admission standards for college education! We don’t mind (or do we?) when substandard engineers start constructing bridges or carry out major projects, or similar doctors start prescribing medicines for us! What happens when humane considerations override qualifications or fitness requirements when it comes to promotions to responsible positions at work? What about ‘grace’ marks promoting troublesome students, and lack of attendance getting ‘overlooked’? What is ‘kindness’ doing to society?

Christian Preaching
When warning about hell is considered too harsh, ‘sin’ is an unpleasant subject to be avoided, and ‘just faith’ is more appealing than repentance, what truth or gospel do we lead people to? Because problems affecting relationships or personal management are to be sidestepped in view of the pain or embarrassment they cause, we scamper around looking for quick and easy solutions! When preachers choose topics that tickle their audience rather than what they need to hear, aren’t they catering to human kindness gone awry?

All these examples and the others like them give a good ‘feel’ and ‘appearance’ that we are being very kind and understanding towards the others. But the result that they lead to--is that what we really want? On the other hand, kindness balanced by justice and righteousness may look unpleasant, but that is the one can lead us to ultimate happiness and welfare.

-- Published in the Light of Life magazine, November 2010

Table of articles
Home page