Kindness: Adjective. To have a good or benevolent nature.
Weakness: Noun. State or quality of being weak, lacking strength, feebleness.
Intelligence: Noun. Having the capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding.
Stupidity: Adjective. Lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; foolish; senseless.
There’s all kinds of people in this world. And when you walk this earth for a while, you’re bound to meet many types. I know that I sure have met many types myself. Some of the types of people whose behavior baffle me the most are those who are unkind, vindictive, manipulative, or just plain out for themselves – they will do anything, walk all over, and use others, to get what they want.
I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine in which she reiterated her observation: “Don’t mistake kindness for stupidity.” That statement fully and firmly resounded with me, and her rather profound statement has been mulling around in my mind for quite a while now. For some reason, I had never viewed how some of us in today’s society mistake kindness from people, and automatically assume that the kind person lacks ordinary intelligence, until I heard that statement from her. My mind keeps returning to this notion that kindness from an individual towards another definitely does not equal stupidity, or weakness. Like my friend, I too have personally experienced my acts of kindness being mistaken by others as if I was weak, ineffective, and just plain stupid.
“On Kindness, [a book] by psychologist Adam Phillips and historian Barbara Taylor, asks why we generally see independent people as strong and charitable people as dumber or less developed. It asks how we got to a place in human history in which heroism is most often depicted as independence, and in which we interpret small acts of random kindness as suspect–as a repressed need to be recognized, as a sign of an overly submissive nature, … An adult who is kind is kind principally because she wants to foster a collaboration–as a risky but necessary part of living a full human life.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-literary-mind/200908/is-kindness-weakness, August 2009)
Yet, I believe that it takes a great deal of strength and character to exhibit kindness, especially to those who behave unkind towards us – and that kindness is definitely not part of our human nature. At times, I struggle with taking the high road, dishing out kindness to someone who’s behaving towards others in a dishonest, unkind, and/or pushy manner. In my private life, I’ve experienced some. But it’s been in the workplace where I’ve most noticed this concept that kindness equals stupidity – it’s demonstrated in an ambitious manner mostly within the guise of “teamwork,” while the ambitious, or power hungry person appears to be behaving helpfully all while trying to take over when it’s not their place, and doing so at the expense of others. That type of behavior tends to frustrate me at the least. I think that I perhaps am like most others when my first inclination is to strike out, and seek revenge. But, it’s most often when I take the high road, exhibit some kindness, no matter how small, that I have peace within myself.
And when thinking about exhibiting kindness, my mind turned to a little story that I heard many years ago.
ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WAS AN OLD MAN WHO USED TO GO TO THE OCEAN TO DO HIS WRITING.
He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work.
Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.
As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.
The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves. When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
(Adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977) https://lewishowes.com/podcast/make-a-difference/)
Yet, striking a balance when others are behaving as if your kindnesses equates out as stupidity is difficult. Sometimes it’s best to confront unkind behavior directly with the abuser, while at other times it’s best to walk away and say nothing. Prayer, and wise counsel, needs to be a big part of having the wisdom to discern just when to speak, and when to be silent. Sometimes, being silent is the hardest isn’t it?
Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Romans 12:17-19 (NLT)
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.
“Don’t mistake kindness for stupidity.”
My dear friend, will sometimes say that she’s not the smartest person around. However, I disagree. Yes, she’s kind. And at the same time, she’s intelligent. And, I am blessed that she is in my life.