First, Be Kind


Of all the misunderstood character traits, kindness tops my observational list. The world is much better with it, but many people assume that simply because a person is kind that they are weak. In fact, kindness is what keeps me out of arguments. If I don’t have something productive to say, I don’t say anything. Consequently, I’ve been fairly quiet lately. Please don’t misunderstand that: I’m not letting my resentment simmer until it explodes and I break out a can of whoopins upon someone. I’m just refocusing my energy until I can talk to that individual without swearing and hurling insults upon them. In behavior management terms, I believe that’s called “time away.”

The world isn’t kind, I hear you protest. Well, the world is spinning on a 23.5° axis, so I’m pretty sure manners aren’t necessary. People are mean to each other, unfair. Sure, and so the answer to that is to be meaner and more unfair? Of course not. Martin Luther King has been credited as saying, “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” We’re not getting very far in global relations if the answer to someone else’s situation is to hate them, so I submit that being kind is far more productive.

I’m not saying that the secret to Peace on Earth and goodwill to all is simple kindness. I am, however, suggesting that it doesn’t hurt to try kindness first. Give the benefit of the doubt. Try to reframe a situation so that you can understand from another person’s perspective. We practice that exercise in social skill building and conflict resolution all the time. Stephen Covey made a whole truck-ton of money writing the Seven Habits series in which one of the habits is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This way, we’re listening more actively, and less with the intent to listen just long enough to get our position across.

Kindness actually comes with a pretty good-sized backbone attached. It takes kindness to understand another person’s perspective without judgement, and even more kindness (some would call it compassion) to be useful to someone else without the expectation of a favor returned. Mother Theresa included this little snippet of wisdom in one of her speeches: “If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.”

It is interesting, and a little sad, to think that if you are taking a genuine interest in someone else’s well-being that people tend to think you want something in exchange. I’d rather that, though, than to behave as though I’m indifferent to what happens around me. I may have to zip my lip, but at least I don’t have to lock down my heart and my compassion. I’m almost convinced that indifference is worse than hate or anger anyway. With hate and anger there is a certain type of energy that can be refocused; indifference means that I don’t even care enough about a person to take any interest in them at all. I’d rather try being kind.


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