As I was driving around town the other day, I saw an interesting bumper sticker. It read, “My Religion is Simple. My Religion is Kindness.” At first glance, this would seem to be a benignly beautiful sentiment. But, as a teacher, my first instinct would be to say (as I would reply to one of my students), “Define ‘kindness’”.
This is where such sentiment can quickly become dangerous. In today’s society, ‘kindness’ would often be defined as, “saying nice things to others, which would include little white lies, and avoiding saying anything which might offend another, even if their very lives depended on needing correction”. What is the dictionary definition, though? In the Collins Dictionary, ‘kindness’ is defined thusly, “the quality of being gentle, caring, and helpful.” On the point of ‘gentle’, these 2 definitions find common ground. However, on those last 2 words – caring and helpful – we find a much different meaning and result.
So, why is this ‘religion of kindness’ a dangerously misguided notion? What’s wrong with ‘little, white lies’ or avoiding saying something which might offend? First, it’s important to remember that old axiom about speaking the truth. It helps to ask a few questions to know when to speak up and when to be silent. Ask yourself:
- Is it actually true?
- Is it helpful?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it kind?
Note the order in which these questions are asked. That order matters. Make no mistake, though, even when the first 3 criteria are met, there’s always a kind or diplomatic way to say something. For instance, if someone thinks they are a wonderful singer and they plan to sell their car, quit their job, and go to New York to pursue a singing career, but they’re really awful at singing – what would you do? The first 3 of the 4 criteria above would demand that you say something to stop this person from making a big mistake. Saying something actually IS the “kind” thing to do (based on the Collins Dictionary definition). But do you say, “You’re awful at singing and I can’t believe you’d think you could make a living at that”? Or, could you put it more diplomatically and say something like, “It is great that you love to sing. I can tell you’re really passionate about it. However, I’m just not sure that’s really what God has planned for you and I’d hate to see you disappointed or hurt. Have you ever considered (such and such) as a career? I’ll bet you’d be awesome at that!”
This article continues at [NC Register] Be Kind, But Don't Kill People With Kindness