Editorial: Kindness is still a virtue

The saying might feel a little outdated, but kindness is a virtue. It still is, as rare as it is becoming these days. 

The news is filled with acts that defy kindness – acts of anger, acts of revenge – and yet one story on Friday stood out to me as I clutched my newspaper with the customary dread that accompanies the predictability of yet another ‘knife crime in London’ story. Oddly, this one didn’t leave me dejected and angry as acts of senseless violence always do, but hopeful and inspired.

In 2019, a doctor named Adam Towler was dragged from his home and stabbed nine times by a total stranger. Aside from the remarkable feat of managing to get back to his home, lock the door, call the emergency services and survive, it was the sentiment Towler expressed in his witness statement afterwards that was particularly striking to me. 

These are the words he expressed to the man who had attempted to take his life: 

“I feel bad that I had this great freedom but you didn’t. I wondered if you had just made a mistake, albeit a big one, or been unlucky.”

This brought to mind a documentary I had watched recently called ‘The Choir: Aylesbury Prison’ in which English choirmaster and broadcaster Gareth Malone was tasked with entering high security prison Aylesbury and starting a choir with the inmates. What struck and disturbed me was the apparent ease with which the young inmates had slipped into crime – like thoughtlessly not stopping to hold the door for a stranger because you want to get home quickly. It was just a small bad decision atop a tower of other small bad decisions. And eventually the tower crumbled on its rotten foundations. 

Many of those bad decisions actually had good intentions behind them: one boy was trying to support financially his mother and younger sibling but deeply regretted the way his actions had spiralled out of control. The bleak truth was that there was no sign his family’s situation would be different when he was released, perhaps only mildly worse, and what was to say he wouldn’t be behind bars again in a few months? Even he seemed resigned to the idea. 

I am not discounting accountability or free will by any means, but there are times when social circumstance seems to ordain certain outcomes and the individual must fight tooth and nail to defy it. Whilst others don’t even see these additional barriers to goodness. 

recent report from the Mayor of London demonstrated that three-quarters of the boroughs in London with the highest levels of violent offending are also in the top 10 most deprived.  

This vicious cycle of crime and poverty and entrapment within a system founded on violence and immorality is not an easy one to break free of. I think that’s what Towler meant by his attacker not having the benefit of ‘this great freedom’.

I think we can all aspire to possess the almost inconceivable kindness of finding sympathy in one’s heart for one’s attacker. The judge of the case, who found Dr Towler’s attacker guilty of attempted murder, GBH and possessing a bladed article, praised the Doctor’s response to the attack thus: 

 “Whether it is the effect of intellect, or faith, or kindness and understanding, I don’t know.

“If it is the consequence of intellect, I admire it. If it is the consequence of faith, I envy it.”

In Adamah Media articles this week, our writers uncover stories of humanity that deserve to be told (and read).

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Fr Joseph Evans is a Catholic priest and member of the Opus Dei prelature. He has been a journalist and youth worker, and is currently a university chaplain in Oxford. He is co-founder and Editorial Director of Adamah, which he sees as bringing together some of his great passions: good writing, intelligent and honest discussion, and helping young people achieve their full potential.

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