Truth v. Kindness

I have tried (maybe not always successfully) to be kind. It's a virtue I can totally get behind. In practice that has meant asking myself "Is it kind" before speaking particularly if the conversation is heated. "You will never regret being kind" regularly rolls of my lips toward the boys' ears (and I hope their hearts) inspired by George Sander's beautiful commencement address. I believe deep in my core that the world needs more kindness. This is true now more than ever.  

But about six months ago I noticed something about being kind wasn't sitting right with me. Maybe it was the cancer threatening the length of my life or maybe because I was just getting older, but kind wasn't always cutting it. I noticed a feeling I would get when talking to a someone when I was trying hard to be kind. I knew I was squelching something in the process. This summer I stumbled upon an essay by writer Elizabeth Gilbert that identified what that something was. It was truth. My truth.

We say the truth hurts because maybe it needs to hurt in order for us to make changes. I can still wince at moments when someone directly and what at the time felt like ruthlessly choose honestly over kindness - my oboe teacher in high school who did not hold back when I had failed to practice enough, an older colleague who in early in my career told me I needed to listen to clients instead of talk over them when I didn't agree with their perspective or even last week when my youngest son advised I need to stop stalking the twitter account of his oldest brother who is away at college. All were true and all required I consider (even if it made me uncomfortable) a needed change in my behavior. 

In the wake of the election, I've struggled with how to think about Trump voters. My desire to be kind begs me to think about their humanity and all the reasons they may have voted for Trump. But then I get that feeling again. That this is maybe a time where the truth needs to win out over kindness. As Tess Rafferty so brilliantly articulates in this video, racism, sexism and xenophobia are a spectrum and voting for Trump puts you on that spectrum. It may create discomfort for Trump voters to face this about themselves, but I can't be kind when the human rights of my friends and family are at stake.  

 

Clenched Teeth

On Being Wrong