Truth AND Kindness

TRUTH

Once upon a million years ago, I was looking into a local charter school for Gianna.  It had recently opened and embraced such enlightened ideas as “global education” and “ethnic diversity” and “eco-friendly foods.”  Well, sign me up, right?  I’m a crunchy kind of mom who likes all the crunch-er-ific buzzwords to be found.  Then I started talking to parents who had already enrolled their children and the rosy picture began to cloud over.

“Oh, it’s great,” my neighbor gushed.  “The kids [beginning with kindergarten] sign a contract that says they will never walk past a piece of trash on the ground without picking it up!  Isn’t that wonderful?!”  I hesitated.  Well, of course I want my kids to pick up litter, but I also reserve the right to prohibit the picking up of cigarettes or hypodermic needles, or other such detritus.  Never mind the nagging question: did I really want my kids to start signing contracts in kindergarten?

I was still willing to negotiate, though, until I heard one of the other school policies.

“There is no such thing as too much truth.”

The hell you say.  Oh, yes there IS such a thing as too much “truth.”  I can think of an example of “too much truth” right off the top of my head.

“Mommy, you’re fat.”  Too. Much. Truth.

I think it was at that moment that I knew that school was not going to be the answer for us.

KINDNESS

Just the other day, Aliya ran into the kitchen, aghast and indignant, towing a sobbing Zeke behind her.

“Mommy!” she exclaimed.  “Gianna is SO MEAN.  She just said that Gabe is faster than Zeke.”

Um.  Gabe is faster than Zeke, by quite a bit.  He’s also got a 19 month head start on height and coordination.  I picked up Zeke (awkwardly now, because: belly) and hugged him.  “You want to be a fast runner?”  Tearful, sobbing nods.  “Okay, well you keep practicing and you’ll get faster and faster.”  And after a minute or two, off he ran to practice and play.

Aliya stayed and gave me a look.  “Mommy.  You still need to talk to Gianna.  She was being SO MEAN.”

Me: “Tell me about her tone of voice.  Was she teasing?”

Aliya: “Well, no.”

Me: “So what she said was true, and she wasn’t taunting Zeke?”

Aliya: “I guess.” {le sigh}

Me: “So then, she wasn’t being mean.  She was merely stating a fact that Ezekiel didn’t want to be true, but that was, in fact, true.”

I win.

It’s a difficult thing to teach your kids, that they cannot demand that the truth be replaced by kindness.  There is not only such a thing as too much truth, but also in demanding too much kindness.

TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN

When I read articles online, I read with this in mind: in order for a piece of writing to be valuable, truth and kindness must both be present.  I can’t even count the number of times when I agree with an author on the content of their writing, but I don’t share it because of the lack of charity in their tone.  Not quite as often, but still enough to merit a mention are the articles that completely abdicate absolute truth for a mushy-gushy “everyone is wonderful.”   Sure, I feel all cozy after reading them, but somewhere deep down I know that the truth was not actually addressed, and that the argument falls apart under scrutiny.

This is a struggle in my own life, and in my own writing, as well.  How much kindness is too much?  When am I “not speaking up” because I’m afraid of hurting someone’s feelings?  And when is the truth just too much?  It’s a balancing act, a tightrope walk, and more often than not, I’m flat on my back and glad the net was there to break my fall.  I’m the first to admit that I fail at this all. the. time.  But I climb back up and try again.

I think we all need to (and I rarely use phrases like “we all need to”) pay a little closer attention to which side of the rope we tend to fall on.  If we’re always the ones making nicey-nice, maybe we should try and have a serious (face-to-face) conversation with a loved one.  An awkward conversation, and one that challenges us.  And if we’re one of the ones who proudly proclaims that we “tell it like it is,” maybe it’s time to give temperance a chance.  Choose words carefully, share articles sparingly, show kindness in heated interactions.

Do you agree?  Which side of the rope do you fall on?  Too much truth?  Or too much charity? 

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Comments

  1. This. Just this. Yes! I haven’t been able to pinpoint what has troubled me so much over some of the articles in the aftermath of Robin William’s death, but this is just it. Some are so overly saccharine and others are too brutal to be charitable.

    This is what we should all be striving for, to say what is true and need ms to be said kindly. My rule of thumbs for speaking about something: do I feel called to speak, might this sharing help someone else, can I say it with compassion, is this a part of my life story I want to record. If the answer is yes, I’m going to say it.
    Annery recently posted…When Everyone is Pregnant But MeMy Profile

    • Those Robin Williams articles were the catalyst for this post, Annie, although I do think about this stuff a lot. It’s a difficult lesson to learn (I learned the hard way – by losing friends due to being so arrogant) but it is something that I hope many of our current writers will someday embrace.

  2. Bluntness is something my older brother has always valued, and it makes a relationship with him exhausting and difficult – I’m not sure when he decided kindness is a Christian virtue, and thus not worthy of cultivating since he decided to distance himself from the Church, but I do wish that both the secular AND Christian world could find this balance between truth and kindness! You’re right, one doesn’t have to sacrifice truth in order to maintain an attitude of kindness, but it seems that on the internet especially, many have gotten into the habit of using the harshest words possible in order to convey their point. OR they try so hard to maintain a charitable attitude that the point is completely lost. Finding that balance certainly is difficult :/
    Rosie recently posted…How to Teach Your Kids to Sew {PHFR}My Profile

    • Some members of my family have the same tendencies, although we are all Catholic, so at least I can use that to call them out. 🙂 Balance IS difficult, for all of us. It’s just so much easier to judge other people than work on myself, ya know? 😉

  3. I think mercy and choosing an appropriate time to speak truth fit in here somewhere to. When I lash out in truth in anger, my message is lost. When my tone is haughty, the truth can go unheard.

    The longer I live and the more oft I confess anger to a priest behind a screen, the more I realize that my role in this brash world needs to be one of peace and gentleness. Telling it like it “is” (or the word according to Colleen) comes easy. Restraint and joy? That’s a bit harder.

    • YES! Timing is key. And I struggle with the same anger issues. Someday, my temperance will show up. I hope I live til I’m old and gray so I get to see it!

  4. I usually fall under “if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all,” but I don’t sugar coat much either, at least around adults. With my kids, I want them to know the truth, but only when it is age appropriate with regards to maturity. Some truths of our adult world are way harder than they can handle right now even though they have questions.
    Natalie recently posted…Oklahoma Vacation August 2014My Profile

  5. Ugh. I lost my shit on someone this week. They were being really mean, and out of control, and not making much sense in their exchanges..but like. I. Lost. My. Shit. And it’s not a good feeling.

    All this to say that your post is awesome and I wish I would have read it before I lost said shit.

    This has been a rough week, I think. For me, it’s that time of the month. HOLAAAA, AMIGOS!!! TMI. But for all of us, this has been a hard week with many, many feels.

    Truth and kindness. Truth and kindness. Truth and kindness and everything else you said are the way.

    • This was almost me this week, Heather. I mean the almost losing it. But I HAVE lost it in the past so I know exactly how you feel. But this week someone was really mean to me, too, out of control and I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. Oh, how I wanted to respond in kind! But yes, truth and kindness.

    • Heather, been there, done THAT. I hope you’re feeling better this week.

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