Lovingkindness by William R. Miller–Book Review

What is lovingkindness?  The term was first used by Myles Coverdale in 1535 as a translation for the Hebrew word “hesed” as used in the Scripture.  According to the author, there are closely related concepts from Baha’i, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, and so he does not address it as specifically Christian.  I also take issue with his view of human nature, as he believes:

“… our fundamental, natural, intended, and mature nature– is lovingkindness.”

Lovingkindness may be our intended nature, and as we progress in sanctification, it will become more apparent in us;  however, original sin prevents it from being our fundamental nature.

That being said, the book does contain information that is helpful in cultivating lovingkindness  in our lives.  Miller defines lovingkindness quite simply — to act for the well-being of others.  It can be sacrificial in a heroic way, or found in the many small choices we make every day.  If we practice lovingkindness as a discipline, it will become an integral part of our character.

He lists and discusses these twelve attributes of lovingkindness::

  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Contentment
  • Generosity
  • Hope
  • Affirmation
  • Forgiveness
  • Patience
  • Humility
  • Gratitude
  • Helpfullness
  • Willingness to yield

Each quality is covered in a separate chapter, along with practical suggestions about practices you might undertake to increase that virtue in your own life.  At its’ heart lovingkindness are the following characteristics:

  • It is chosen.  It cannot be done grudgingly
  • It is enacted.  It is not just the emotion of sympathy, but compassionate action.
  • It is empathetic, having an interest and understanding of other views, even when they differ from our own..
  • It is selfless.  It cannot be done for personal gain or rewards.
  • It is consistent, a way of living, not an isolated act.

He also discusses some obstacles to lovingkindness:

  • Inattention
  • Fear and anger
  • Privilege

VERDICT:  3 STARS.  I disagree with some of the author’s premises, but he has provided an accurate description of lovingkindness, as well as some helpful suggestions for growing it in our relationships with others..

For more on the topic of kindness see these posts:

Deep Kindness by Houston Kraft–Book Review

Apathy, Sympathy or Empathy?

The War For Kindness by Jamil Zaki — Book Review