Henri J. M. Nouwen: Discipline

Home » Meditations » Meditations » Henri J. M. Nouwen: Discipline

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

“Kindness is a beautiful human attribute. When we say, “She is a kind person” or “He surely was kind to me,” we express a very warm feeling. In our competitive and often violent world, kindness is not the most frequent response. But when we encounter it we know that we are blessed.

Is it possible to grow in kindness, to become a kind person? Yes, but it requires discipline. To be kind means to treat another person as your “kin,” your intimate relative. We say, “We are kin” or “He is next of kin.” To be kind is to reach out to someone as being of “kindred” spirit.

Here is the great challenge: All people, whatever their color, religion, or sex, belong to humankind and are called to be kind to one another, treating one another as brothers and sisters. There is hardly a day in our lives in which we are not called to do this.”

Henri J. M. Nouwen in Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (New York: HarperCollins, 1997) 4 February.

Nouwen astutely reveals the key to extending kindness: discipline. It requires discipline to see others, especially people that are very different from us, as fellow humans and as next of kin. Our tendency is to emphasize how we are different rather than to celebrate what we have in common.

Paul reminds the Ephesians (and all of us) what brings all people together. Sure we can point fingers and judge how sinful one person is because of what they have done, but the reality is that all humans are equally bad, and all can only find forgiveness from our Lord Jesus Christ. The cross makes the way for kinship.

I am still in Chicago to meet with students (pictured above) individually or as couples (if they are married) to discuss their financial houses and how the biblical instruction helps them put them in order. We will also consider together how the truth sets them free to be kind and generous.

Are you disciplined? Will you adopt a humble perspective in your mind and have compassionate love in your heart for others that propels a person to action that is beautiful? If you think it’s hard, then reflect on what Christ has done for you. Gratitude to God will serve as fuel for your kindness.