Of Cruelty and Kindness

“That’s a nasty rumor,” she said quietly.

He replied matter-of-factly, “Didn’t really put much stock in it when I heard others talking.” He shrugged, “I mean, I’ve always liked you as a person.”

If there’s one thing I have experienced all my life, it’s that people are cruel. Unconscious cruelty I can take, when they’re just not self-aware enough to know that what they say or do hurts others. It’s when they gleefully and wilfully engage in behavior and talk that tears another person down that I wish the earth would swallow them up whole.

I’ve been on this planet 30 years and I still am amazed at our rapacious appetite for gossip, whether it’s about a celebrity or a nobody who just happens to be in our social circle. “Did you hear about…?” is a surefire conversational kickstarter. So who cares if what we talk about happens to paint someone in a bad light? As a matter of fact, bad news is even more enjoyable to share with others. It sticks longer in our memories, too.

Maybe it’s because we want to feel better about our own lives — that’s why we tell stories of other people failing at theirs. In an effort to make ourselves feel more significant, we attempt to make others look insignificant. Cruelty is a sign that there’s a deficit. When we are cruel, we are attempting to take from others what we feel we lack.

Notice that I’ve used “our” and “we”; I see this capacity for cruelty in myself, too.

And then I experience kindness, and all is not lost. I store up these moments in my heart. Our capacity for kindness is determined by our own experience of it.

When you can choose to be kind instead of being cruel, you can count yourself blessed that someone cared for you, so you can care for others. You overflow, so instead of taking, you are able to give.

I remind myself of the greatest kindness I’ve received and continually receive every day: John 3:16.

Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. — John Watson

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