Whatever we might accomplish in this world, no matter how many awards we achieve, no matter how many promotions we win, no matter how much wealth we possess, no matter how many degrees we accumulate, without kindness we will not and cannot succeed. As someone succinctly put it, “It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.”
One of the greatest responsibilities we hold as an adult is to “practice (daily) random acts of kindness.” By doing so we not only become part of making our world a better place, but we also model how to live a life worth living to others. In reality, kindness can only be taught by living in kindness. Reading a book on kindness or listening to someone speak about kindness might be informative, but only through acting in kindness will we teach others how to be truly kind.
Alan Dixon’s story about his father reminds us of the importance of what we convey by what we do. “My father is a television repairman, and when he comes home, he wants to think about something else. My mother often says that everyone’s television works right except our own. Since the antenna on top of the house had one arm broken off by a windstorm, it has never supplied as strong a signal as it should.
Not long ago a new family moved in next door, and soon the man appeared on his roof to install his own antenna. Knowing that my father is a television technician, he drilled the lead-in hole in the same location, secured the base, and turned the apparatus facing the identical direction as dad’s. Then, studying my father’s roof a moment longer, he reached up and, with a yank, broke an arm off his brand-new antenna.” Fixing everyone else’s antennas isn’t enough. In fact, it’s the wrong place to begin. Fixing your own antenna, living your life as an example, become the beginning place for teaching others how to live their lives.
Unfortunately, our tendency is to practice selective kindness which sadly becomes nothing more than a tool or technique to manipulate others. We turn it on when it is helpful and turn it off when we don’t need it. We may be kind to our boss because this benefits us and turn around and be mean to our children.
We may treat a wealthy person with both kindness and respect one moment and the next treat a person without money with contempt and scorn. We may treat others with kindness simply because they are like us (our race, our faith, our culture) while treating those who are different as unworthy of even the most basic acts of kindness.
The word “integrity” comes from the word “integrate.” A life of integrity means an integrated life. In other words, we can be counted on to act consistently the same regardless of the situation or context. Our kindness must find expression in every facet of our lives. Only then can we live a life of genuine kindness.