Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Review: The Hidden Power of Kindness

The Hidden Power of Kindness: A Practical Handbook for Souls Who Dare to Transform the World, One Deed at a Time by the Reverend Lawrence G. Lovasik

I read this title out loud to Kansas Dad and we both started laughing; it seems a little overstated.

When I started reading it, though, I loved it! I've read The Imitation of Christ once all the way through and then in bits and pieces. It's a marvelous book, but it always seemed to me a little dense, difficult to read at times and more valuable for the monastic or priest than an ordinary mom with four little ones wreaking havoc. Rev. Lovasik's book, in contrast, is a series of mostly short sections, many only a few paragraphs long, that call us to imitate Christ each and every day in the smallest ways, the ones that present themselves all day long.

I'm not sure how this book was written or edited, but it can seem a little disjointed. It's like someone has gathered sayings or quotes of Rev. Lovasik's sermons. While it still seems a little ridiculous to me to imagine how kindness can "transform the world," I think Rev. Lovasik is talking about the supernatural transformation of God's kingdom on earth, the one we are all called to serve. I remember a few years ago when I was struggling to understand how what I did at home with four kids six and under was meaningful. This book goes far to address that struggle. A smile and a quiet voice in answering the needs of a child are indeed the work of Christ on earth.

In the very first chapter, Rev. Lovasik lays out the simple but enormously difficult rules:
Don'ts:
1. Don't speak unkindly of anyone
2. Don't speak unkindly to anyone.
3. Don't act unkindly toward anyone.

Dos:
1. Do speak kindly of someone at least once a day.
2. Do think kindly about someone at least once a day.
3. Do act kindly toward someone at least once a day.
The book sets a high standard, defining negative habits like nagging, describing how you behave when you are nagging, and then encouraging the reader to wage war against the smallest bad habits.
Do not be one of those who, for the sake of honor or praise from people, are ready to make great sacrifices, but neglect the little acts of kindness that add more luster to their name than do great deeds inspired by selfish motives.
In this paragraph, you can see how Rev. Lovasik connects kind thoughts and acts with a full and rich life.
Do all the good to others that circumstances allow. If you concentrate on yourself too often, your life will be flat and empty. Lively interest in others makes you rise above the pettiness of self-love. Self-love is to be dissolved in the crucible of a common interest in people. Self-effacement in order that others may be made happy is a lifework that will be most richly rewarded by God. It is Christlike to give generously of your kind thoughts, your heartening words, and your kind deeds.
I love how the book points us always to our neighbors, including those of our own household. Kindness in this book is not something we feel vaguely for poor people in another country
You are not always required to give your life for another, but you must always live for others. The true meaning of charity is more the giving of what you are than of what you have. Your neighbor does not require a portion of your money or possessions, but he longs for a portion of your heart.
Kindness to other people is one way to make God's kingdom present here and now.
Nobody can judge people fairly except God, for He alone judges with perfect knowledge, certainty, and compassion. God is merciful because He is all-knowing and all-wise. In imitation of God, you must learn to interpret the motives and actions of others kindly before you can arrive at perfect love of your neighbor. Your kind interpretations are images of the merciful compassion of the Creator, who can find excuses for His creatures. Therefore, kindness in judging is true wisdom, because it is an imitation of the wisdom of God.
I don't agree with every statement in the book; sometimes it seems as overstated as the title. I like how he quotes Scripture often, but it's disconcerting to me when he then sums up the meaning of the Scripture verses in one sentence. I think it's likely many of those verses mean what he says, but also much more than he says.

I still have to count it as one of the most useful and inspiring books I've read so far this year. It would be perfect to read a bit at a time along with a morning devotion or at anytime when you find yourself with a few minutes to pick up a book. In fact, I think I read it too quickly to absorb everything (because I had to get it back to the library).
Each time you are kind, you do a service to Jesus; at the same time, Jesus acts in your soul by His grace to make it more beautiful and holy.

2 comments:

  1. I may have to request this. Isn't that the same priest who wrote all the little paperback children's saint/church books?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Monica, I think it is the same priest!

      Delete

Comments make me happy; thanks for speaking up!