Unkill with Kindness

“Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” – Matthew 9:12

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32

Louis Lasagna updated the Hippocratic Oath. In 1964, while Dr. Lasagna was a professor at Johns Hopkins, he unveiled his revision of Hippocrates original. The “Lasagna Oath” is currently the most commonly used oath by medical schools in the US. His version of the Hippocratic Oath includes the pledge, “I will remember that…warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”

This promise takes seriously the truth that kindness heals.

Dr. James Doty of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University speaks passionately of the power of kindness in the practice of healing. He references a 2009 study that subjected volunteers to the common cold virus. The study found that those volunteers who rated the doctor who interacted with them as very kind were less likely to develop a full-blown cold, their symptoms were less severe, and their illness cleared up faster.

The relationship between kindness and healing may simply be attributed to the fact that when people are treated with empathy and respect they tend to share more openly and listen more intently. Kindness makes a person feel, well, like a person. When we are sick we don’t feel like ourselves and in some cases we begin to feel as though our humanity has given way to our illness. Nobody wants their personhood to be reduced to their malady. Kindness affirms that we are more than our sickness.
In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul says that some are given the spiritual gift of healing. However, perhaps all of us can follow the Great Physician in the work of healing by means of a simple act of kindness.

God of compassion, your mercies are new again this day. May your steadfast-loving-kindness that fills the stories of scripture fill my heart, my mind, my life. Amen.