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Kind isn't nice

You may remember that on last week’s episode, we discussed the nuanced differences between niceness and kindness. You can find my post here that highlights some key differences. We are living through a time when people will tell you with a straight face that the highest virtue is to not offend people. Fr. Anthony Sortino joined us to explore this topic and to encourage Christians to intentionally choose to be kind over being nice. You can find the episode here.  


So, I wanted to spend some time today discussing situations each of us might encounter in the world where people may expect us to be nice but we should instead choose to be kind.


But FIRST, I just want to say thank YOU to our readers and listeners for your support. We appreciate you and your feedback is not only heartwarming to read but it also informs us on which topics to tackle next. Please keep the comments coming!


How can we use kindness to deepen our interpersonal relationships?


This one is top of my list for a reason. If you reflect and even look around you, you will notice that your best and closest friends are not people you always agree with. You might recall some arguments, disagreements, honest and tough conversations. If you read my LinkedIn post on friction, you will recall that it is a fundamental component of life. If a goal is achieved without effort, it is less satisfying than a goal achieved with tremendous effort. This is because achieving the goal costs us something. We poured a non-zero amount of ourselves into accomplishing the goal and so the successful outcome is a reflection of the fruits of our labour.


In a similar way, our closest friendships are those in which we do not shy away from tough conversations. This is because tough conversations build trust. I think we all know to some degree what our flaws are, and if no one points them out, we will begin to wonder if what they say is what they actually think or feel.


When someone says something that might potentially hurt our feelings, or something that we might know is hard to say to someone, it reinforces our trust that this person cares enough about us to do it anyway. This is something that we need to strive for. Always desiring the good of the other person, we should seek to be open and honest at all times.


How should Christian parents and teachers think about kindness?


Parents and teachers want to be “liked” by their children and students respectively. As I approach fatherhood, this is making much more sense to me. It is natural to want to be liked, but it cannot be at the expense of our God-given duties. Parents as the primary educators for children, and teachers as their secondary educators, both have a responsibility to those children. They need to instill values, bestow knowledge, dole out discipline as necessary, and all with the intention of providing the children with the tools to be capable, independent and well-formed adults.


Now consider the alternative outcome if we chose to ignore our duties in favour of being liked. Give them all the chocolate they ask for, never correct behaviour because “kids will be kids”, and pull them out of school because they hate it. Is that really what we ought to do? We can quickly see how that could turn out, but this is what niceness demands of us. And in a society in which niceness is the highest virtue, this is what society demands of us. Kindness on the other hand demands that we choose to be disliked in the moment, for the good of the children in the future.


In choosing to be nice, we are really choosing the easy and selfish way. The highest good we strive for with niceness is our comfort in the fact that people like us because we tell them what they want to hear. In choosing to be kind, the highest good we strive for is the other person’s good, even at the expense of our comfort and desire to be liked. Sounds a lot like someone else’s sacrifice for all of humanity.


Kindness in the workplace


We all know the masses of leadership books and guides that have been written. So many schools of thought, methodologies, and frameworks for us to choose from if we find ourselves in a leadership position in the workplace.


However, the reason I chose to highlight the workplace in the context of kindness is that I think a leader just needs to strive to be virtuous. With one of those virtues being kindness, they can ditch the books on leadership and let virtue guide their decisions. Not to mention, a company’s culture starts from the top, and if the leader strives for virtue, they will see the benefit of that throughout their business.


There is so much more I want to mention but I’ll leave it there because someone else can do it better! On this week’s episode we’re chatting about building a thriving culture and we have Jeff Shiefelbein from Undivided Life to share his expertise with us. Be sure to tune in!


God bless,


Rigel


P.S. It is appropriate to refer to God's creation as "nice" :-)

River

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