The Massacre of the Innocents

Justice, Kindness, Humility, and Service

We are getting an eyeful of injustice, cruelty, hubris, and selfishness. It comes to us in examples large and small. On a catastrophic scale, it’s unfolding in Ukraine. In subtler but relentless increments, we see it in pervasive bias against people living with obesity. Dispiriting as all of this is, an antidote is available to us. Each day we have the opportunity, if only in small ways, to pursue justice, kindness, humility, and service.

Michael Gerson offers perspective:

“Hope does not guarantee immediate success; it involves acting in a manner worthy of success.

“Though it is not a substitute for Javelin missiles, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s kindling of hope has been an essential element of his leadership. He has shown an infectious commitment to both national identity and to universal human dignity.”

He suggests we ask ourselves about virtues more suitable for a eulogy than a fluffy bio:

“How well did you love? Whom did you serve? When did you show character, and conscience, and compassion, and simple kindness?”

Hubris and Bias

In the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Shauna Bowes and colleagues draw a crisp connection between hubris and bias. Specifically, they are writing about political myside bias. It is the tendency to seek and exaggerate evidence to confirm one’s own views and dismiss evidence to the contrary. Though their work is about political polarization, it offers insights relevant to polarized views about obesity, nutrition, and health.

In short, they found that intellectual humility is an essential tool for reducing myside bias. So one might say that bias is an implicit expression of hubris. “I have the answer.”

We hear this over and over again. It echoes when people tell us they know precisely how to prevent obesity. We hear it from a doctor who wants to tell his patients “it’s not OK to be obese.”

Finding Hope and Grace

A common thread through diverse faith traditions is a path for recovering from mistakes. Seeking grace and forgiveness. In fact, reflecting on this lies at the heart of this season of Lent for Christians. Tish Harrison Warren writes of her need for humility and grace:

“This recognizes that I will get much wrong. That as a writer, I’ll say things, however unintentionally, that are untrue and unhelpful. As a mother, I will harm my children – the people I love and want to do right by most in the world.

“I need this humility. Our broader culture does too. The Lutheran theologian Martin Marty wrote that we live in a culture where ‘everything is permitted and nothing is forgiven.’”

Moving Forward

Humility is part of a spectrum. At one extreme is hubris. At the other is self-doubt and self-stigma. Humility is a middle ground, compatible with confidence to move ahead. In that middle ground, we can pursue justice, act with kindness, and serve others more than ourselves.

The world needs more of this. Each of us can add to it.

Click here for further perspective from Gerson and here for more from Warren.

The Massacre of the Innocents, painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder / WikiArt

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March 13, 2022

2 Responses to “Justice, Kindness, Humility, and Service”

  1. March 13, 2022 at 8:19 am, Christine Rosenbloom said:

    Beautiful words.

  2. March 13, 2022 at 12:27 pm, Allen Browne said:


    Good piece.

    I particularly like “ Humility is a middle ground, compatible with confidence to move ahead”

    Have a good day!