The slide towards kindness…

A friend pointed me to this clip- a speech made by a professor to young students. It resonated with me as in just a few short weeks my daughter is off to university. We sat and drank champagne last night to congratulate her on her exam results, and I wondered what lay ahead, and how we got here so quickly…

Here is the clip;

(There is a transcript here.)

A few years ago I wrote a post in which I suggested that kindness was perhaps the best measure we had of ‘spiritual maturity’. Let us hope that our children see it the same way…

On being found wanting…


I had a long day in Helensburgh today- meeting some of my staff, and chairing some reviews. I caught the ferry home amongst the usual mix of commuters and weekend holiday makers-grateful to be heading home.

It has been a tough week- more because of my old internal demons that from time to time drag me back to places that I hoped to leave behind.

Waiting for me was an e-mail someone had sent to the Aoradh website.

Most such e-mails are friendly inquiries or greetings, and this one started in this vein- a woman who is retiring to Dunoon with her husband from abroad, and had been checking out the church situation over here on the internet, and so found her way to our site.

And one article had upset her sufficiently that she felt the need to e-mail to let us know.

This was not for the usual reasons that have brought us to conflict previously- doctrine, Biblical interpretation etc. It was rather because she found something that I had written judgmental and unkind.


It is always harder, I think, when things that you think yourself to be strong in, are found wanting by others. By this I mean that I consider myself to be a pretty tolerant, kind person, who goes to great lengths to be fair and just to others when I can- although I have my petty moments as my friends will tell you! The whole ethos of Aoradh had always been to stand for unity and love, against that brick wall kind of Christianity that finds others wanting.

But here it was- clear evidence that someone else saw me, or at least something I had written, in an entirely different light.

What this lady objected to was this article– and in particular, these words;

There is a new kind of prosperity however, fuelled by the idolatry of the house worshippers. We have a new middle class, who disgorge from the Western Ferry terminal every weekday evening, home to their semi-rural idyll after a hard day in the big city. At the edges of the town, new identikit houses spring up overnight, expensive designer accessories, fitted kitchens and all.

I replied to her e-mail, apologising and trying to explain that this was a piece of creative writing where I was trying to come to terms with being an incomer in this town, and to understand what formed it’s character. I was groping to understand the town’s economy- and the centrality of property. I was wondering in my own mind if the obsession with owning and renovating property (as seen constantly on the TV as well as locally) had become the way that we measured life.

I was wondering if property had become the god of our age.

Now shown to have feet of clay as prices tumble and the credit gravy train derails.

What this ladies motivations for expressing her disapproval, I have no way of knowing. Perhaps the words I wrote were badly chosen- and I certainly have no wish to offend. Perhaps she tends towards the argumentative and dogmatic- a character trait not unheard of within our churches. Perhaps she has a romantic view of the ferry journey over to Dunoon, and my words spoilt a precious image for her.

Was I being unkind and judgmental?

I am not sure. But I still think that these questions are important ones- to ask ourselves.

Because I have a great big rambling house by the sea. I try to use it for others, and fill it with music and friends and fellowship. But I know that it is a source of ego strength- in all its faded glory.

So I bring it again to God, asking him again to use it, and me. I can do nothing else.

As for the complaint- soon the lady concerned will begin her own transplanting into new soil. May she find the kind nutrients and generous watering she requires…

Kindness- as a measure of spiritual maturity

Another great collection on Radio 4’s start the week programme. Listen again to it here.

There was this fascinating discussion about KINDNESS, relating to this new book, co written by a psycho analyst Adam Philips  and Historian Barbara Taylor.


They appear to take the view that our society has retreated from kindness as a way of interacting and engaging with the people around us. We assume that we are no longer inter-dependent and needful of others, and so kindness becomes identified with a kind of weakness and vulnerability.

They go as far as to suggest that we tend naturally towards kindness, but learn to suppress this as we grow into our culture. All Kindness, suggests Philips, is a RISK- but a risk that is transformative in the taking.

There is a review of this book in Guardian by Mary Warnock where she says this

Kindness to others arises out of sympathy. As the authors note, there is much evidence that other animals besides human beings (or “men” as they properly designate them) can enter into the sufferings and fears of others of their kind. But it is human animals alone who, because of their imaginative powers, can enter into the feelings of other people far removed from them, whom they cannot see or touch, but whose plight as fellow-humans they can share

In the Gospel of St Luke, a lawyer is told by Jesus that to live well he must love his neighbour as himself and, when he further asks who is to count as his neighbour, Jesus answers with the story of the good Samaritan, for many the very essence of Christianity. Kindness here arose spontaneously, not in obedience to any rule, in fact in defiance of convention. But as Christianity became increasingly ecclesiastical and hierarchical, with the consequent corruption of the priesthood, the good Samaritan was forgotten.

The new Protestantism declared man to be fundamentally sinful, such good actions as he could do dependent on the grace of God; and so the possibility of natural kindness disappeared.

So we come back to Jesus, and his call to live for a radically different agenda, according to the rules of a New Kingdom. And one of the watch-words of this new kingdom- is kindness.

It is one of those fruit listed by Paul as evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. (See here for some more ponderings on this.)

When we come into contact with kindness at a point of real need, we rarely forget it. It lives on in our souls. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians- all sorts of other loud and visible manifestations of faith will clang like gongs and then fall silent- but love will last for ever.

Which makes me think again about the myth of the super-Christian. I am interested in the stature aquired and the adoration we give to some of our leaders- perhaps for their charisma, their vision or their oratory power. When one of these paragons of Christianity falls from Grace, how dreadful it seems… how shocking.

Might this be because we measure spirituality according to a strange criteria? We equate knowledge with understanding, declaration with practice and power with ordination from on high.

Might we best return to a simple measure- of kindness shown, and a skew towards grace in all things. These are the leaders I look for. Jesus has ruined the others for me!

Against such there is no law…


A continuation of some stuff based around the list of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians chapter 5.

This poem kind of nods at all the fruit Paul mentions.

You can see the others by clicking on the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ category on the left.

Love is not against the law
Although in judicial circles
It is not encouraged

But where the Spirit of the Lord falls
Love is between us like oil on bearings

Joy is not forbidden
But wherever it breaks out
It is fragile
Like a bubble
In a pine forest

But where the Spirit of the Lord rests
Joy beats like a dancing drum in the middle of us
Calling us to dance

Peace is never prohibited
But like a dove above a shooting range
Its flight is fraught with danger

But where the Spirit of the Lord lives
The boundaries we keep are soft
And we are learning how
To forgive

Patience is permitted in most places
But only if you use it quickly

But where the Spirit of the Lord lingers
Patience is like the summer sun
Drawing out the sugars in the ripening fruit
Sweetening the harvest

Kindness is condoned even in the most unlikely places
But it will win you few contracts
And is not conducive to

But where the Spirit of the Lord comes close
Kindness kind of follows after

Goodness will not result in a jail sentence
But neither will it pay its way
In the global village superstore

But when the Spirit of the Lord smiles
Goodness becomes the common currency
Gentleness is no crime
And in many places it is a clinical necessity
But it is easily overlooked
In the shadow of another conquest

But where the Spirit of the Lord draws near
Then hands all rough from hard works
Become softened to hold
And to heal

Faithfulness is never a traitor
Yet we live like weathervanes
Spun by the seasons
To face the prevailing winds

But when the Spirit of the Lord moves
Promises no longer require the threat
Of legal recourse


Self control is thundered from the pulpit
But just in case the message falls on deaf ears
We deploy the secret pew police
Rule books at the ready
Swinging their
Truncheons of truth
To crunch the knuckles
Of the apostate

But when the Spirit of the Lord comes amongst us
There is a perfect law called…


Emily and Will, somewhere in Wester Ross, 2003

Emily and Will, somewhere in Wester Ross, 2003

The fruit of the Spirit is kindness


I was sore
Abraded by the road gravel
And you wrapped me
In a soft bed
Of kindness

I was weary from the world
And like a soothing embrocation
You took these road weary feet
And slippered them
In front of a warm fire

I failed
And stared down low
Until the soft music in your voice
Brought to me possibility
That I too
Could be loved

That I too could love
In return

So may you be showered with blessings
Like blossom petals
Butterflying about you
In this beautiful breeze