It’s been the longest day ever. Things haven’t gone the way they were supposed to. Nothing’s gone quite right. And then, the unthinkable happens. Someone comes over to the house – the messy, messy house — and says “I thought you might need some brownies and a friend today.” That act of kindness, with no thought of any kind of recompense, makes the rest of the day melt. There is great power in kindness. And, kindness is something the world needs more of.
Kindness, compassion, mercy –these are all gifts we have the power to give to our friends, children, spouse, neighbors, and families. These gifts forge strong bonds of love, encourage service, and create a safe place for people to come. Kindness is not a weakness. As the saying goes: “You catch more flies with honey.”
Too often, our culture values ruthlessness. Popular children’s shows highlight “mean girls” as important characters. Their mean, petty behavior is placed before young children as an example of how they are expected to behave. Yes, there needs to be a problem to solve, or a conflict, so the show is entertaining. There does not need to be snarky comments, put downs, and cutting remarks written into the script.
It’s no wonder that “mean girl” syndrome is on the rise in our elementary and high schools. The cutting remarks are seen as powerful and a sign of strength. Yet, the opposite is true.
Strength comes from being willing to help those in need. Power comes from putting the needs of others ahead of our own. Authority comes from compassion and competency. Service, selflessness, and compassion are the behaviors that we need to see displayed as examples in the media.
And, yet, service, selflessness, compassion, and mercy are also lacking in our everyday lives. Often they are missing from our discussions and comments in on-line forums. We have decided that because the comments are almost anonymous (or at least don’t have to be given in person) then we can be as ruthless, rude, and cruel as we want. This anonymity gives us the right to sit in judgement and say things we would feel too ashamed to say out loud, or in person.
Can we disagree with others and their views? Absolutely! Discussion and disagreement are how we solve problems – as long as that discussion stays on topic and doesn’t devolve into character assassination and name calling. I studied debate and argumentation, and one of the cardinal sins in a debate is to attack the other person instead of the other person’s ideas. That usually meant that you’d run out of salient arguments, and only had character assassination to fall back on. You had lost the argument based on your ideas, so you were trying to win by besmirching the other person.
But, when we disagree we need to be kind and compassionate as we do so. We need to allow others to have their opinions and be allowed to have our opinions too, without fear of character assassination or malicious attacks. Offering this kindness, or freedom of speech, will allow problems to be solved more quickly and amicably.
Kindness is catching. As we give kindness to others, it comes back to us. And it spreads out and touches mores lives. We are our brother’s, and sister’s, keepers. We share in the responsibility to care for those in need – not just physical needs, but emotional and educational needs as well. As we practice kindness, compassion, mercy, selflessness, and service; we impact the world in a greater and more powerful way than any CEO or president ever has.
Together, we can change the course the world is taking. We can move it from selfishness to selflessness. We can move it from caustic to caring. We can bring back civility and honest discussion, instead of harsh judgments and hate.
As we move forward, I am going to try to be kinder. I’m going to make more brownies for my friends and neighbors. I’m going to help those I see who need help – comfort those who need to be comforted. And I will politely disagree when I need to, but always with kindness, compassion, mercy, and selflessness as companions to that disagreement.
Will you join me? Will you spread kindness with me?