Is Kindness Wishy-Washy?
Have you ever had someone knock on your door, trying to peddle religion? For mysterious reasons, some people get so many proselytizers (i.e. people who want to convert you), you’d think they must have a flashing sign out the front “Come to me all ye who have a persuasion to push”).
I used to have a lot too and all kinds came. But over time, my religious visitors seem to have dropped off to a neat zero. That’s okay. Maybe I have a secret mark on the letterbox, like a black light signature, saying, “Don’t bother. This guy is silly. Good for kindness and a coffee, but barmy.”
Maybe they’re right.
It’s just that, I don’t believe in rejecting people because their beliefs are different. I have spoken to many people from a host of cults and isms over the years and I’ve drawn a powerful conclusion. Whatever our beliefs, we all appreciate kindness and want to be respected. For instance, I’m no Zoastrian, and nor do I hold those views. But that doesn’t stop me showing kindness to someone who is, as one human being to another.
So many people slam doors, abuse, and generally act cruelly to people who want to share a different view. All that does is harden everyone’s thinking into a good guy-bad guy mindset. One that builds hatred and hostility on top, ensuring it stays that way.
Aside from our fears telling us to hide under the couch and start hyperventilating when someone holds a different view, I see no reason to withdraw kindness. We all deserve to be treated with dignity. So different views are really an opportunity to at least apply some tolerance.
That doesn’t mean being wishy-washy though. Or letting people push you around or coerce you to agree. Nor does it mean swallowing codswallop. For example, I reject men suppressing women, the refusal to allow people to think for themselves, and cultic practices in religion or business. But my issue is with people’s beliefs and practices; not them being people.
Years ago, as a teen looking after our home when my parents were overseas (think Home Alone Feegs style, minus criminals and pranks), I’m sure I broke every rule in the book when a pair of Mormon missionaries called by.
“Oh, you’re Mormons?”
“Actually we like to be called Latter Day Saints.”
“No worries, Elder [looking at his name tag]. May I call you Elder? Gee, funny how you and your friend have the same first names. Why don’t you come in for a coffee?
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. How could anyone be so naïve/stupid/vacant? Well I was a teen and a trusting sort at that. So both young men shrugged their shoulders as if to say, “What the heck?” and came in.
Now we had a good chat; a great chat really. Eventually they wanted to leave, but I hadn’t finished! You know how teens can talk…
Well, move forward twenty years to me as a married man with two very young children. A knock came just as Ruth was fixing dinner. Opening the door (we don’t have a screen, peephole, or iron bar security. Just three loopy cats), would you believe there were the very same young guys who saw me twenty years earlier (Well, they looked the same).
So I talked to them for a good while and invited them to come again if they were that keen. But by the third visit, Ruth was unhappy, saying that “like nappy/diaper commercials, these guys always come at dinner time.”
That was Ruth’s none to subtle hint. So I decided I better not muck around anymore. I asked if, beneath our differing beliefs, they considered we were friends. Well they assured me they were. In that case, I concluded, they could give me their contact details and I’d give them a call.
“We can’t do that.”
“Then if you can’t be open enough to simply be contactable, what kind of friendship are you offering?”
Real friends are honest.
Kindness doesn’t mean feeling obliged to host the local Rastafarian football club for lunch because they say so. Nor does it mean going along to a religious event out of teeth-gritting duty. Kindness is an inclusive approach to treating everyone with dignity and respectful honesty. Kindness respects difference because it’s choice is allowed.
Will some people try to exploit your kindness? No doubt. Meaning, we cannot afford to be wishy-washy. You need to know yourself well, and draw a line between what you will and won’t accept. Giving human regard, courtesy, and common care does not mean you have to accept behavior that clashes with your values. Is that crazy? Some might think so. But this kind of considered kindness lets us accept difference and get along well with people from all walks. Even when we don’t see eye-to-eye.
So how do you feel about kindness? Can kindness take us further than tolerance? Or is tolerance enough for us all to live well together?