Kindness

On Reading Well

Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter Eleven

Tenth of December

By George Saunders

 

Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. 

~Job 6:14


Chapter Eleven of Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well examines the virtue of Kindness with examples drawn from George Saunders’ Tenth of December.

As Karen wrote

The connection between kindness and kinship helps make sense of the reason for envy being the vice that opposes kindness. Aquinas calls envy “sorrow for another’s good.” Unless the relationship is marred by some dysfunction, it is natural for us to celebrate a family member’s happiness or success. When something good happens to someone in our family, it is like it has happened to us. We share in that good rather than envy it. To seek and celebrate the good for others is then to treat them as family in this way. This is what it means to be kind.

If kindness is so easy and simple, why is it so lacking around us?

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Patience

On Reading Well

Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter Ten
Persuasion
By Jane Austen

 

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

Ecclesiastes 7:8


Chapter Ten of Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well examines the virtue of Patience with examples drawn from Jane Austen’s Persuasion

As Karen wrote

Like all virtues, patience is the mean between an excess and a deficiency. The excessive vice related to suffering is wrath. Evil and suffering should result in a righteous anger. To fulfill the admonition of Paul to “be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26 ESV) requires patience that is the fruit of the Spirit. Patience is a virtue, not in overlooking wrong, but in refusing to do wrong in overcoming wrong. But untempered by patience, such an impulse becomes wrath. On the deficient side of the scale is a lack of spirit or carelessness or sloth. If in the face of evil or suffering one simply does not care, no patience is required. But such lack of care is, like wrath, a vice. Patience is not inaction. As the Bible says in James 5:11, patience is not passivity but perseverance. When faced with suffering or wrong, the virtuous person responds neither with wrath nor with stoicism but with patience. A person who has true patience is “angrily virtuous,”whether that means giving time for the emotional heat to subside before acting or simply waiting for the slow wheels of justice to turn.

What, beyond waiting, are the necessary components of the virtue of patience?

 

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Diligence

On Reading Well

Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter Nine
Pilgrim's Progress
By John Bunyan

And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Hebrews 6:11-12


Chapter Nine of Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well examines the virtue of Diligence with examples drawn from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress

As Karen wrote

In the Bible, diligence is often presented in contrast to its opposite, sloth. For example, Proverbs 12:24 says, “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute” (KJV). Sloth has received considerable examination by moral philosophers, so to understand the virtue of diligence, it’s helpful to examine its opposing vice of deficiency.

Sloth is commonly thought of as laziness, but it’s much more than that. (We saw in chapter 6 that sloth opposes magnanimity, for example.) Sloth involves not only a lack of effort but also a lack of care. In fact, the Greek word for sloth, acedia, literally means “without care” or “careless.” It’s similar to a word we use more commonly today, apathy.

How do diligence and apathy show up in contemporary society?

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