Beware Unfettered Kindness

Beware Unfettered Kindness May 23, 2023

In a past article, I wrote on the dangers of unfettered empathy. As equally dangerous to human development and maturity is unfettered kindness. Now, please do not misunderstand this warning as a call for incivility or bullying. One must remain polite and civil in all human interactions. No, my warning concerns misplaced kindness that leads to the detriment of another. This type of kindness, instead of encouraging individual growth and maturity, stunts growth and enables immaturity. True kindness, kindness reflected in Sacred Scripture and Catholic Tradition, leads to personal transformation and spiritual maturity. Or as St. Paul plainly put it in Romans 2:4:

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

In this article, I juxtapose the Catholic understanding of transformative kindness against the modern concept of kindness as niceness and politeness to the detriment of the recipient’s character. Drawing from the Christian tradition and personal experience of both of myself and others, I demonstrate the dangers of unfettered kindness and the benefits of true kindness.

Unfettered Kindness Defined

Simply put, unfettered kindness is when one nicely and politely ignores and enables unhealthy and immature behavior in others, especially when the others are in close friendship and familial relationships. Unfettered kindness often takes the mantra of “who am I to judge?” to extremes. To not “judge” is nice and polite but becomes harmful when one sees destructive behavior and does nothing, or even encourages it.

True Kindness Defined

Conversely, true Christian kindness seeks the betterment and advancement of another. To harken back to St. Paul in Romans 2:4, true kindness originates in God’s kindness towards His children. In kindness, God exercises forbearance and patience. This kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. True kindness never turns a blind eye to wrongdoing, but lovingly seeks to correct us and lead us to real change. In Galatians, St. Paul goes so far as to list kindness as a fruit of the Holy Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Among kindness’ “siblings,” St. Paul lists love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are not “fruits of the Spirit,” but singular fruit, as in they come as a package deal. Therefore, those who possess true Christian kindness also possess, for example, faithfulness and self-control.

A Real-World Example of True Kindness

In my junior year of high school, I walked away from my faith. A new Christian during my freshman year, the initial excitement I experienced eventually wore off. Moreover, I eventually experienced Christian hypocrisy for the first time. My thoughts: “how can God be real if the people who claim His name live such inconsistent lives?” I concluded it was all a sham and walked away… A few times during my junior year, people invited me back to church. On the occasions I did return, the actions of one man solidified my contempt for Christian hypocrisy.

A Spiritual Father’s Rejection

Ray was like a spiritual father to me and my two cousins. We had a complicated family life, so Ray opened his home to us. Ray also had three kids our age who attended the church youth group. I saw in Ray a truly godly man, that is, until I walked away from Christ. On the rare occasions I returned to church, Ray went out of his way to ignore me. When I tried to get Ray’s attention, he acted as if I was not there. Where was God’s unconditional love…?

A Spiritual Father’s Invaluable Lesson in True Kindness

In time, I returned to my faith. God touched my heart in a special way. I came to learn that other people’s faithlessness was no excuse for my own. What about Ray? What I had understood as unkindness and hypocrisy was a lesson I’ll never forget. One night, Ray took me aside. With tears in his eyes, he said, “I want you to know that I love you like a son. It tore my heart out to do what I did.” I asked him WHY he did it then. He continued. “You needed to feel what Jesus felt. Jesus wanted you back, but you ignored Him. Jesus tried to get your attention, but you acted like He did not exist.” My worldview experienced a seismic shift in perspective during that one conversation. The love and dedication it took, the true kindness, to bear such pain and patiently pray for my return to faith, to hope. In the silence and perceived unkindness of Ray, I learned so much. I grew and matured as a Christian exponentially.

A Real-Life Example of Unfettered Kindness

Parenting is never easy. We try to do our best for our children. Sometimes the kindness we show our children, when not tempered by wisdom, limits their growth and maturity. For example, when does a parent exercise tough love with their adult children? If an adult child refuses to take personal responsibility for their life, should their parents continue to house and feed them? Is it truly kind for parents in their sixties to enable irresponsible behavior in their 40ish son? What happens when the parents eventually die and their son still remains irresponsible and immature? In truth, the unfettered kindness of the parents in the present represents actual cruelty—unintentional cruelty—but cruelty, nonetheless. Conversely, true kindness exercised for the betterment of another lovingly encourages and supports the son’s independence and maturity. Pragmatically, the parents must set boundaries and not allow their son the opportunity to take advantage of his parent’s kindness. In other words, the parents must remove the possibility for the son to use them.

It’s Your Kindness That leads Us to Repentance Oh Lord

In conclusion, the words of the classic Christian Soft Rock hit by Leslie Phillips titled, Your Kindness, show the true nature of Christian kindness. To hear the song, please click here.

Your Kindness

Waiting for angry words to sear my soul

Knowing I don’t deserve another chance

Suddenly the kindest words I’ve ever heard

Come flooding from God’s heart


It’s your kindness that leads us

To repentance Oh Lord

Knowing that You love us

No matter what we do

Makes us want to love You too


No excuse no one to blame

No way to hide

The eyes of God have found my failures

Found my pain

He understands my weaknesses

And knows my shame

But His heart never leaves me.

Therefore, as seen in the words above that echo the words of St. Paul, God’s kindness leads to our repentance. True kindness does not enable or ignore bad behavior. True kindness may patiently bear the immature and sinful behavior of others, but it does not ignore it (or condone it). In response to God’s kindness, in gratitude, let us exercise the same kindness towards others. Let us never practice unfettered kindness to the other’s detriment.


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