Love and Kindness, Are they Synonymous?


By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


All parents indicate that they love their child/children. Yet, I have observed very loving parents do or say things that their children interpret as unkind. The question we will consider in today’s article is this. “Are parents who love their children always treating them with kindness and compassion?” or “Do loving parents always act in a kind manner to protect and make sure that children are assured a comfortable and pleasant life?”

Let us begin this discussion by quoting C.S. Lewis. He states the following. “…by Love most of us mean kindness – the desire to see others … happy… What would satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happen to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven – a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might truly be said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all.’” He goes on to say that we all would like to live and love in a universe like this, “But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.”

C. S. Lewis implies that true love is more than kindness. True love of our children requires that we correct them when they need correction and that we allow them to suffer the consequences of life’s circumstances or of poor decisions. As loving parents we do this so they can gain strength by meeting the challenges of life. We want them to learn by facing and overcoming the problems they encounter along the path of life. If we choose to “rescue” them when, with a little struggle they can gain strength, it is not love. It is indulgence. It is protection that keeps them where they are rather then equipping them to take care of themselves.

C. S. Lewis further states that “There is kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not coterminous…. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering.” Using this logic he says, “It is people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes. If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears from all the records, that though He as often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable complement of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic and inexorable sense.”

I read an interesting book in college. It was written in the 60’s when most of the popular literature encouraged parents to show more love and understanding of their children. But, even then, we intuitively knew that some children and immature adults did not respond to the language of kindness. The book was entitled, ”Love Is Not Enough.” The author stated that we can love possessions like cars, clothes, and jewelry. He stated that we can love pets and acquaintances. But he said that this kind of love was superficial. The kind of love that our children needed required a greater commitment.

The kind of love that children need is always respectful and always concerned for their well being. but it is not always designed to assure comfort or pleasure. This means that caring parents provide their children with food, clothing, shelter, and respect. Caring parents do not always act as parental servants. They do not assure that the child always has TV, Video Games, their favorite food, designer jeans, etc. They teach their children that they are not entitled to privileges not shared by other family members. They teach their children that they are entitled to correction, expectations, learning of problem solving skills, and the right to serve and help others.

Children have the right to protest decisions that parents make. They do not need to like every decision that their parents make, but they need to eventually learn to be obedient and respectful. Unless a child can learn to honor, respect, and love their parents, they cannot grow up to be happy and productive citizens. Children can accomplish this growth best in an environment that is loving in the sense we are discussing in this article.

Love includes kindness but true love may not be seen by children as always kind. When we as parents recognize and put into practice “true” love then we can help our children become what they have the potential to become.