I post on controversial things across social media. I call out corruption, blast the worst forms of self dealing leadership, name and shame vicious behavior in all domains of human life, and dive into controversial issues with questions and distinctions and cautionary notes that many people don't want to hear. I don't intend to do it, but I sometimes make people mad. Some are merely irked. Others are enraged. How dare I? Well, I'm just following in the footsteps of Socrates. Yeah, and look what that brought him. I know. So I'm not utterly perplexed by this phenomenon.
But the thing that really does surprise me is that the posts of mine that seem to spark the most ire are often my recommendations of kindness. No, I'm not kidding: simple kindness. I often mention it here and on other social platforms, and in a very positive way. We should be kind. We need to bring more kindness into our work lives, our home lives, our politics, our simple daily interactions with others. And rather than everyone nodding and agreeing that we do need to be reminded of that now and then in our time, and maybe sending me a cute stuffed teddy bear for my efforts, I often see angry and offended people shoving these recommendations back in my face.
Kindness is a cheap perfume, they seem to say. Manners can mask monsters. Nice is syrupy and saccharine and utterly inauthentic. Some cynics will rail about Southern Hospitality and down-south friendliness as if it's always a case of some spider inviting a fly into her vast web of deception. Say WHAT?
There is plenty of counterfeit wisdom in the world, and faux virtue. There are false versions of nearly everything that's good and true and honorable. But should that for a second make us hesitant about what really matters? It's only an unkind view of the world and those of us in it that will automatically interpret a recommendation of kindness as a suggestion that people be duplicitous and false, when they're actually better off indulging the inner jerk and treating others awfully, or with disdain, or at least as if they don't matter at all. Here’s the real news: Not every appearance of goodness is a matter of hypocrisy and deception.
Kindness, by actual contrast, is the first level for applying the famous Golden Rule, treating others the way we'd want to be treated if we were in their place. And it's actually the first step in self care. It's only when we're kind to ourselves that we can improve ourselves in healthy and wise ways. I think that kindness is where morality and ethics all begin. It's a thing of the spirit, and is as powerful as it is simple.
I'm not the first to push kindness, and I hope I won't be the last. And if anyone reads this and you somehow feel your blood pressure rising, I would hope that you'll be kind to yourself and take a deep breath, and reconsider your irritation before you shoot me an authentically mean reply. As we say in the South, "Namastay!"