The Virtues of Being Kind
One of my professors once implied that at our core, we do not like to be corrected, or to be wrong. I find this to be true for many people, but it is not prophecy. I admit when I was in my early 20s I felt antagonistic towards those with opposing viewpoints. I viewed —wrongly— that to be strong and confident was to be adversarial and to stand your ground.
As I grew a little older that energy seemed to move elsewhere. Life is not a zero-sum game where the only way for someone to win was for someone else to lose. I suppose many feel this way because they are seeking affirmation, that they have value, or more value than the next person because they are right. When confronted, or called out, we seek to save face with whatever means we have available.
Saving face is about saving your ego, keeping this fragile structure intact and in doing so you are proving your strength. This is a facade –real strength has to come from within, not without. Conflict is an opportunity to both test your character, and to forge it. It shouldn’t be an opportunity to tear others down in order to build yourself up. When in dialogue with others we should tread with care, and when appropriate allow yourself to admit when we’re wrong.
This reflects the dual virtues of magnanimity and fortitude, or in the Christian sense, to turn the other cheek. To forgive and to allow yourself to show fallibility is to allow others to see you as another human being, rather than an obstacle. It is also a means for self-growth, in that you may allow differing viewpoints in past your walls. Even if you disagree with the conclusion, there is usually something to learn —find the kernels of truth in the argument!
When in dialogue with your fellow human beings, we need more kindness. There is little use in being a jutting stone in the river of life –refusing to move or change. It is easier when you are dealing with someone else face-to-face and perhaps in formal emails. However there is a real temptation to forego common sense when interacting with others through the screen with a keyboard.
Keep in mind, even in the sometimes vile environment of the internet that the self-worth of others are at stake. By destroying these, you risk creating not only an enemy but someone who becomes corrupted. They can become something that reflects their worst, rather than their best. This presupposes the faith that people are at heart, good. However don’t we all wish, in our heart-of-hearts, that this is indeed the case?
Sometimes people tell me, that I make them feel stupid. This isn’t an attempt to brag, but a demonstration of the affect we have on others even if we didn’t hold the intention. We all need to attempt to keep modest, to remain as humble as we can. The world is a vast place with so many things to interpret, we can never be right or be knowledgeable about all of it. We cannot know everything, have the courage to learn from the journey and wisdom of others.
This includes not only times we are physically cohabiting a space with others, but across the digital sphere as well. We are all too ready to get up on our high-horses and act smug when given the chance. This however only creates animosity and can cause others to deafen to what you have to say. This only encourages small-mindedness, gated communities of thought, and to shrink the marketplace of ideas.
All negative consequences that have larger implications for us all.