In Others’ Words: Error

kindness quote 8.19.20 This quote by author George Saunders came from a college commencement speech he delivered at Syracuse University this past May. When I read Saunder’s speech, posted in the New York Times, I stumbled into this quote — Err in the direction of kindness — and knew I’d be posting it on this blog.

Erring in the direction of kindness.

A beautiful thought, that.

At the time, I didn’t realize believers were debating the error of Saunder’s ways. Read about it if you want … this blog isn’t a forum for debates. It’s a place for conversation. You. Me. Talking about our lives. Our faith. Yes, even our doubts and struggles, because God’s in all that too.

But back to erring in the direction of kindness.

Why not err toward kindness?

Jesus did … when he told the woman caught in adultery “Neither do I condemn you” — and yes, I’m not forgetting that he also told her to stop sinning. (John 8:1-11)

Err toward kindness.

Jesus did … when he told a tax collector — of all people! — “I’d like to have dinner with you — at your house.” (Matthew 9:9-13)

Err toward kindness.

Jesus did … when, even in the very act of sacrificing his life for us on a rough-hewn wooden cross, he offered grace and mercy to a thief condemned to die on a cross next to him. (Luke 23:42-43)

In Your Words: When has someone’s kindness reflected God to you?  

The “Error” of Kindness Click to Tweet

How Kindness Reflects God Click to Tweet 

Read the first chapter of Catch a Falling Star by Beth K. Vogt! Click to Tweet


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  1. August 19, 2013, 7:24 am   /  Reply

    Oh wow, I love that. Err toward kindness.

    So I have a group of really close friends and once, one of those friends made a decision that ticked off the rest of us. I was soooo mad at her for awhile. And, yeah, not proud of this but I froze her out for awhile. Well, months and months later, after we’d all expressed ourselves and talked it out and decided to be adults about the situation (always a good thing, yeah?!), she gave me a card…thanking me for loving her through that situation and being her friend. And all I could think was, she’s showing me grace…she’s choosing to forget my stupid, stubborn silent treatment. When I failed to err toward kindness, she completely succeeded. I’ll always remember that. 🙂

    • August 19, 2013, 12:58 pm   /  Reply

      What a wonderful, life-giving story of friendship, Melissa.

  2. August 19, 2013, 7:53 am   /  Reply

    Saw kindness very recently. On a major trip 1200 miles from home when our car needed mega repairs (w/o going into more detail) dear friends from long ago who I met by tchg. their kids took us in, improvised an 8th b’day celebration for grandson Rocco, and thanked us over & over for coming. We’re so thankful & blessed.

    • August 19, 2013, 12:58 pm   /  Reply

      Sweet kindness in time of need. So beautiful.

  3. August 19, 2013, 7:57 am   /  Reply

    Erring toward kindness, definitely a humble and gracious thing to do. My husband is good at erring on the side of kindness, as I’ve experienced many times. Quick to forgive, patient and supportive. He shows kindness at times when I don’t deserve it.

    • August 19, 2013, 12:59 pm   /  Reply

      I love to see husbands and wives being kind to one another — and cringe when I see the opposite happening.

  4. August 19, 2013, 3:19 pm   /  Reply

    The first act of kindness I remember was from an Orthodox Jewish family who realized that, as a child, I was in an unhappy situation. To put it mildly.

    They took me in, and made me part of their life. I took part in their holidays, went to synagogue with them…they saved my soul. Literally. (The odd thing is that I’ve recently found that legally…I’m Jewish…as well as being of Mongolian stock…go figure).

    I read the article on Saunders, from the link you posted. Personally, I think that kindness is an ‘elementary’ lesson that we can all practice, regardless of faith. The ‘kindness through subjugation to God’ approach is rather an advanced lesson, and I think many misapprehend its thesis – and err into pride.

    “Only kindness matters…” the haunting words from Jewel’s song should be our watchword, because kindness is within our power. It may not be ‘niceness’, because kindness transcends the temporal.

    Kindness can mean, when one has to dismiss an employee, to do it privately, and with words of encouragement in finding a new direction.

    Kindness can mean giving an enemy, fallen in combat, the coup de grace, rather than letting him die in agony.

    And coup de grace means ‘stroke of grace’.

    Kindness becomes grace.

    I think I’ll stop here.

    • August 19, 2013, 6:35 pm   /  Reply

      Sometimes the kindness of strangers can make all the difference in the world …

  5. August 19, 2013, 6:27 pm   /  Reply

    I often told the kids when I talked with them that it cost nothing to be kind. And the benefits are beyond anything you can imagine.

    • August 19, 2013, 6:36 pm   /  Reply

      I like that, Pat: It costs nothing to be kind.

  6. August 19, 2013, 9:57 pm   /  Reply

    I’ve been the recipient of so much kindness, but for some reason, when you asked this question, my thoughts went to my group of MOPS friends. They are some of the kindest women I’ve ever met. When a baby is born the group brings the new family a weeks worth of warm meals. When my twins were born, we received two weeks of meals! I know what it takes to get supper on the table for a family with preschoolers, so I’m always humbled when a mom is willing to not only get a meal on the table for her family, but also bring one for mine. It ministers to the heart of a mom like nothing else.

  7. August 20, 2013, 7:21 am   /  Reply

    Wow, who would have guessed that anyone could argue “err in the direction of kindness”? As for me, I’m all for it.

    My bigger concern than the debate in the article is that my kindness be more genuine than before. I don’t have much trouble being kind, but my motives have many times been to prove I’m okay, to make you like me, to get what I want. I’d like my behavior driven by the fact that I am kind … that I’m more like Jesus.

    Thanks for food for thought, as always.

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