WHY WE CAN’T AFFORD
TO MISTAKE KINDNESS FOR WEAKNESS ANYMORE
We’re weary of people who do not say what they mean and mean what they say. We want truth and honesty. We don’t want belligerence. We don’t want rude. And we don’t want weak people manipulating us by paying lip service.
The problem is, people have been so busy being politically correct that they’ve stopped being honest because they fear being shot down, demoralized, or destroyed. We once lived in a civil society where reasonable people could disagree without retribution. But those days fell to the PC police and those who make such rules that the rest of us—whether or not we agree—feel compelled to follow to survive. Now, collectively, people have gotten a bellyful of biting their tongues, having their character maligned, and seeing their views tromped, and they’re retaliating. That push-and-pull, fueled by anger and disgust, gives us a society highly charged on all sides.
Of course, conduct is markedly different. As a result of our experiences, we are markedly different. The challenge for us all is in how we are different. That can make it difficult for us to unite as a civil society, which is necessary if we are to survive intact as a civil society. The bottom line is we need each other—all sides—and we need to recognize that all sides have value in the collective whole of us.
One of the biggest challenges facing us is this division and polarization. We’re into the second generation of self-indulgence, and that, while gratifying perhaps personally, does not serve us well collectively. It blinds us to the merits of temperance, tolerance, and appropriate public conduct. It encourages us to mistake kindness for weakness. And that mindset leads to destruction—if we stay on that path.
We don’t have to, and many don’t want to, stay on that path. But we aren’t sure how we got on it in the first place, and we have no idea how to get off it.
The good news is, despite claims of those who like us divided—it’s easier to manipulate us if we’re divided—it’s not that hard to figure out how to fix this challenge. First, we have to understand and accept that the change doesn’t begin elsewhere with others or those in leadership roles. It begins with us. In our mindset, our attitude, and our personal choices.
Step One is to remember, if we didn’t know, or to discover: Kindness is not weakness, it’s strength. Here’s why that’s a fact:
It’s easy to bully. We see it all the time. It takes more effort and self-discipline—more strength—to be kind. It’s easy to be kind when faced with kindness. It takes more work to be kind in the face of adversity. More work and more personal control and character.
Martin Luther King had it right. Don’t judge a man by the color of his skin. Judge him by the nature of his character. Why was Dr. King right? Because we all bleed red. A person’s character tells us not just his nature on a specific issue, event, or in a specific circumstance, but the means by which he will decide his stance on other issues, events, and specific circumstances. It tells us what guides his decisions. What principles he uses to guide himself and his actions.
We need to remember or discover: Kindness and respect go together like hand and glove. Kind people are respectful. Of themselves. Of others. Of all views. Kind people listen with an open mind. They don’t shout down or attempt to silence those who disagree with them. They might or might not change their opinion due to what they hear from those who disagree with them. That’s far more likely to happen if they’re treated with respect.
Calling people names and comparing them to some of the worst criminals in history, blaming them for others’ disenchantment doesn’t encourage anyone to hear opposing views much less to listen and be swayed by them. If when engaged, someone is rude, hostile, or violent, then everything they say will be met with resistance and fall on deaf ears.
Facts prove points. Rude and hostile or violent conduct proves the facts are not supporting someone’s points. The person behaving in that way is thought of as weak, or that s/he has an ulterior motive that is disrespectful to his or her own opinions and to the people and their opinions s/he is s trying to change.
Kindness is often mistaken for weakness. It’s not. Kind people fight the battles they consider worth fighting. They don’t feel they must compromise their principles to do it. They don’t feel compelled to fight dirty or to lie and manipulate or threaten. The truth holds up under logic and reason, and truth is sufficient to battle and win.
Weakness is the refusal to fight. Or forcing others to fight for you while you keep your own hands clean and yourself out of the fray. Weakness is the fear of fighting and losing what you want and are trying to get. Weakness is the sit back and do nothing response—to protect yourself from criticism, being targeted, from losing ground.
The most weak are those who double-speak to divert attention from the truth to lessen the pressure on themselves. Included in that group are those who set up others to take blame for them. That’s weak and cowardly.
The weak are immobilized by fear. They’re motivated by want but stymied by flawed logic, misinformation, the absence of facts, or by the deliberate misrepresentation of facts. The weak fail to do their own homework to assure they have command of the truth, the facts as they are and not as they or others wish them to be, and too often they ignore inconvenient truths because those truths do not support their position or fit the narrative they choose to support their personal agendas.
We need to remember or discover: that we all suffer self-inflicted wounds. There isn’t anyone who hasn’t made mistakes. Who hasn’t done—or thought of doing—something questionable to protect themselves and ended up hurting themselves and/or others.
There was a time when we remembered we’re all flawed before we went into attack-mode. There was a time when we understood the value of decorum and civility. A time when we gave others the benefit of doubt before acting as their judge and jury, eagerly convicting them. A time when we gave others the forgiveness and grace we knew we would one day be asking for from them. We knew that day would come because we’re human, and, for humans, that day always comes.
But things are different now. We are a divided society. We’re now in the second generation of being a divided society. Some have deliberately perpetuated that division, and collectively, we’ve allowed it. The fault for the division isn’t theirs, it’s ours. We condoned it and, because we did, we own it.
Yet that doesn’t mean we must continue to own it. That we can’t realize that unless we stop focusing on what divides us and start focusing on what unites us, we will follow the path of those before us who have embraced division. Remember the warning in the quote: A house divided falls? That applies to society as well. It’s happened over and again throughout history. We need not repeat it, and make that lethal mistake our mistake.
That inconvenient truth, our division, puts us and our society, at a crossroad. We can divide and fall, or we can unite and prosper. It’s our choice.
The path to uniting isn’t easy. Much has been done to make it difficult because our division served an agenda for others who put their needs before the needs of our society. Recognizing that, as individuals, we must decide which side of the fence we want to be on—the Dividers or the Uniters. None can straddle the fence. That results in certain destruction.
We decide, and we can find our way back to a civil society where all are respected and diverse opinions make us stronger, for then we explore all possibilities and adopt the strongest of the strong.
The first step to uniting is to decide to unite. The second is to respect your decision and yourself, and then to respect others. To jumpstart respect is to identify and embrace the differences in kindness and weakness.
So far, we’ve blown it. We’ve failed to recall or discover that we all have the capacity to be kind and strong or to be weak and destructive. But the beauty of being a free society is that we can choose at any time, on any minute of any day—a thousand times a day—to stop wherever we are and start over. Looking at how far we’ve fallen, and how many of us have hit bottom and are floundering in a pit of despair, we’re way overdue for a fresh start. So how do we do it?
Be kind. Be respectful. Be civil. To yourself and to others. All others. Treat everyone with the dignity and grace that you, at some time, are going to need and hope you receive.
A fresh start is that simple—and exactly that difficult.
It takes incredible strength to be kind and to unite. But we’re capable and, if we choose to do it, we have the ability to do it. I’m certain of it. Why? Because we know the difference between kindness and weakness—and that’s why we can’t afford to mistake one for the other anymore.*
© 2015, Vicki Hinze. Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is The Marked Bride, Shadow Watchers, Book 1. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact.www.vickihinze.com. Subscribe to Vicki’s Newsletter.