Kindness

If I think carefully and examine what moves me, what touches my soul, it is the beautiful, brave and penetrating acts of kindness that take me by surprise.

We have probably all heard and seen a lot more about the subject of mental health this past week. We have just travelled through a week which has attempted to bring to mind the struggles and hopes of many in this new Covid environment. The Mental Health Foundation has chosen kindness as its theme for this year’s campaign. 

“We have chosen kindness because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity. It is a cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health. Wisdom from every culture across history recognises that kindness is something that all human beings need to experience and practise to be fully alive.”

The Mental Health Foundation, 2020

I think that this is truly inspiring. If I think carefully and examine what moves me, what touches my soul, it is the beautiful, brave and penetrating acts of kindness that take me by surprise. Admittedly, in the past, I had not seen kindness in such high regard. In terms of Christian discipleship, it was – in my view – a non-descript behaviour. Kindness, as I saw it, was good and an important human trait but it did not provide a basis for a higher moral and spiritual outlook. Jesus’ life, teaching and prayer was more than the utterance of kindness. However, the gospel is utterly shot through with stories of courage, solidarity, community support and selflessness. This is kindness in action. 

Unsurprisingly, today our mental health is in need of these acts of kindness. The most critical thing in our quest for wellbeing is the state of our souls. The condition of our precious souls and the resilience of our mental health are inextricably linked. When I was planning the book that I wrote with Jo, Disturbed by Mind & Spirit: Mental Health and Healing in Parish Ministry (2009) Mowbray/Continuum, I felt there was a great need to try to de-stigmatise an area of life which was still so hidden and feared. So I wrote from the perspective of one who had suffered from depression/anxiety, whose soul had felt somewhat battered and broken. 


“My closest friendships at this time came in the form of a prescription, the standard medical response to ill health.  These illusory friends – Prozac and beta-blockers – would serve me well and, after four to six weeks, our relationship became quite intimate.  These drugs were for me a pathway to salvation, they gave me hope that I might live as God intended, that I might function as the Church expected, indeed that I might survive.”

Gavin Knight, writing about his own experience of emotional disturbance in, Disturbed by Mind & Spirit: Mental Health and healing in Parish Ministry (pp.11-12)


What, then, brought me back from edge of the precipice? It was not only chemicals! It was God in the singular and collective acts of kindness which, as the psalmist writes, ‘restores my soul.’ (Psalm 23)  I would say, without getting too personal, that kindness was central to my recovery. Collective kindness, particularly through family relationships, their time, their consistency of love and regard. The prayers of the Church were another key aid providing a wave of grace. The singular kindnesses of individuals – most of which were given without any acknowledgment from me – I remember today. Kindness is not only a wonderful virtue, it also saves lives. 

Kindness recognises the beauty of the soul. Any act of kindness is a sign of God’s love and desire for his creation.  Perhaps it would be even more pertinent during these strange days to become kinder to ourselves as well as others. I say this as a mantra for self-loving. We need to protect our souls from harm. We need to oversee the health of others in our lives too. 

This is my Christian witness – to prevent unnecessary hurt and pain, to promote a better way which locates kindness at its heart. This is the way of Christian love which seeks to restore the soul of those who feel beleaguered and even tortured.  We may, at one point (or more) in our lives feel like this. But there is hope, there is new life and understanding to be gleaned from out of the darkness and despair by those who feel lost and alone. Each soul is precious to God and every soul can be restored to his likeness. 

Pray for those struggling because of the lockdown

Now watch the Church in action! It is the Seventh Sunday of Easter – the time between the Ascension of Our Lord and Pentecost.

This is the time to pray for the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon the world and each other. Join in with the local prayer initiative called The Upper Room: community called The Upper Room. Find out more details here: https://www.upperroomoxford.org This is a city-wide initiative to pray for God’s blessing upon our community. The Archbishops’ have been asking us to use this octave to pray for the Spirit’s guidance. They call it, Thy Kingdom Come. Pray each day in this ‘in-between time’ for the breath of Christ to touch the lives of the grieving, the lost, the hopeless. Start where you are at; the place which you inhabit today. God is there – kindling a fire within you.

Please also see the craft for this week which is attached. Thank you to everyone who contributed to our weekly digital offerings.

Please go on to social media and tell others about the saving benefits that kindness brings. Share this blogpost as an act of kindness. See our website for news and events.

God’s blessings upon you all.

Gavin

Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.