Recently, it has come to my attention that we have a problem. But “problem” does not even begin to describe what is happening to our culture. We have a massive issue, or dilemma. To say the least, we are in a pickle. We, as an American culture, have a problem with being kind.
Kendall Wood from Elite Daily writes, “When in any given situation, the majority of people fail to consider the way that they would feel if they were in that situation themselves, and thus, act in their own self-interest.” But don’t we all want others to show empathy to us? Don’t we want kindness and compassion?
It doesn’t matter if you’re cool or uncool, fat or skinny, gay or straight, conservative or liberal, Christian or agnostic. Just be nice. That’s the problem! We care too much about who we are and how we are perceived that we automatically lose all empathy for anybody else. Our innate desire to be liked, attractive, funny, cool, or unique ultimately gets in the way of our ability to have empathy. And that empathy! That empathy that gets buried beneath our selfish emotions ultimately has the ability to create kindness, but we make it wait in line behind all of our selfish insecurities. Take care of number one first, right? No!
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all shove our social matters aside and show some empathy? Not tell that controversial joke that might offend neighboring people. Not say that snide remark that will coat you in a “cool” limelight. Refrain from being so shallow to put down one student in a pursuit to look more popular for another. Why are we all so obsessed with our own personal agendas rather the wellbeing of others?
Now, I’m not saying I’m immune to this disease of harshness. I’m guilty too, and that’s why I want this change! I want it because I look around at our high school in shock. For some reason, we all forget that each of us struggle too. We struggle together in such close proximity, but we don’t care. I think we all need that sense of empathy. We need to know that we are in this together. We need to know that being mean should never be the answer. In RJ Palacio’s book Wonder, she writes, “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” Not even between being mean and being kind, but being right and being kind. Because then we use empathy, which is the key to kindness.
After all, wasn’t it that one sarcastic remark that caused you to fire back an insult? Or that sneaky text that caused you to send multiple retaliation texts to others? Wasn’t it just one mean action, that caused you bitter resentment? It’s cruel that the answer to cruelty is just more cruelty. But what if we answered with kindness? Yes, the revolutionary act of kindness. What if the next time someone spit words of venom at you, instead of shaking with bitter resentment, you smiled and let it go? What if the next time someone made you feel worthless, you answered them with a compliment? This isn’t normal, and I’m not asking for something easy. I’m just asking for change. I’m writing this not as an expert, but as someone who wants to see this change of friendliness even in myself. Because if one mean comment can string out a chain of bitter emotions, then why can’t one friendly action create a culture of kindness? Show some compassion. It’s the only solution.
Art Credit: Jordan Sterett
Wonder by RJ Palacio
Elite Daily, “We Need More Kindness in the World” by Kendall Wood