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In a World Where You Can Be Anything, Be Kind?
I’ve encountered this mantra on my Instagram, Facebook, and just about everywhere:
“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
At first, I embraced it. I can do more “kind.” Yep, I can be known as kind. “You know Christine Merser; she’s so kind.”
No one says that about me. But that’s not to say I don’t do kind things. Say kind things. Bleed with empathy and reach out with kindness for those in pain or less fortunate than me. I’ve done those things. Many times in my years as a caring friend, family member and human. But that is not the first thing that comes to mind when people think of me. I know this because I called a few friends and asked them to quickly describe me.
Here is what I heard: “Generous.” “Friendly.” “Funny.” “Smart.” “Helpful.” “Political.” “Creative.” One friend said, “a great driver.” Huh? No one said, “kind.”
So then I spent considerable time thinking about it. Pondering the words they used to describe me and questioning whether or not I’m a good person with those adjectives as my personality foundation. Then I second-guessed everything that I am, much of which I was born with, not that which I worked to acquire.
And, then I got angry. Defensive? Maybe, but nevertheless, I really started to look at the word “kind” and ask myself if that was a word I want in my epitaph.
Kind (adjective): Having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature: “She was a good, kind woman.”
Then it hit me. Of course I am kind. I am friendly, generous, and considerate. Actually, I am those things often.
I watched an AOC’s speech on the floor of Congress yesterday. Twice. It was many things. It was inspiring. Revealing. Articulate. Powerful. It was not kind. Kind would have been ridiculous for the issues she was addressing.
Kind is a tool in the toolbox. It is not the box itself. Always being kind in all circumstances is not a goal. There is a time for kindness and a time for strident confrontation. There should be honest confrontation. And when you can do it so the message can be heard more easily, great. AOC did not say anything that wasn’t true or clearly her opinion over fact. It was without bitterness. It wasn’t whiny. She did not make herself a victim. If anything, she made herself a hero, the master of her own universe. But it wasn’t ‘kind.’
So, it’s not the word “kind” that I have an issue with; it’s the entire message, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” Always. Nope. Not a good plan.
I think it should read, “In a world where you can be anything, be appropriate to the moment in which you are responding and to the individual you are addressing.”