Monday, September 15, 2008

Love and Kindness are Not Coterminous

The more I think about the following quote, the more I discover the truth of its claims. I find, especially in my busy everyday interactions with people, that it is easy to be kind, without truly loving. As Lewis says, it is quite a simple thing to show kindness with indifference, with drowsiness. Love is a much harder and harsher ideal than kindness. Yes, love and kindness are not coterminous. In the concentric circles of love, kindness is simply a small inner ring.

There is kindness in Love, but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness is separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object and even something like the contempt of it.

When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man; not that He has some 'disinterested,' because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the 'lord of the terrible aspect' is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, not the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain