So much anger. So much wasted energy. Whither kindness?
Kindness is a deceptively deep concept. Alongside the other character strengths of the virtue of humanity (love and social intelligence), it should be the glue that binds us together. However, there is so much anger and so much wasted energy. Kindness’s antonyms give us a challenging counterpoint:
Unfortunately, these are displayed on an astonishingly regular basis by so-called ‘leaders’ across all walks of our daily lives, usually as a means of fomenting discontent. Only interested in more power or increased personal wealth, corrupt leaders commonly focus on the disaffected. Sadly, often as not, their supporters are the people who will least benefit from such leadership. Furthermore, those opposing the inhumane leaders also frequently fall into the trap of employing barbarous language and tactics. In summary, the challenge is that unkindness loves company just as much as misery.
Endemic unkindness is a big hairy challenge; it’s everywhere. Look at the news. Read a newspaper. I’m at the point where I’m seriously considering not watching or reading anything. It’s like watching badly behaved children argue in a schoolyard. It’s all about: “that’s my position, I’m not moving;” “I’m right, you’re wrong;” or “that’s not what I’m seeing, you’re crazy if you think that’ll work.” Often as not, inhumanity proceeds despite evidence to the contrary. Worst of all, it’s an energy sink. Unkindness absorbs negative feelings and multiplies them. Imagine where humanity would be if we channeled the energy we waste in defending the indefensible
What humanity can achieve
The stimulus for this short rant is a work of fiction, but one implicitly inspired by real events. Over the weekend, I watch The Martian, a piece of science fiction starring Matt Damon in the titular role. Short version:
Astronaut gets stranded on Mars by accident;
scientists work out how to save him;
Americans and Chinese collaborate to enable the solution;
the crew who left him there go back to rescue him; and
The Martian educates students on survival on Mars.
Equally, this could have been Apollo 13.
The best of humanity
In both cases, when you study these events, there is little time for inhumanity, quite the opposite. They’re about the very best of humanity: creativity, problem-solving, and communication, all in the context of love, social intelligence, and kindness. Neither rescue would have succeeded where unkindness or any of its antonyms held sway. Indeed, many technological disasters of recent times are attributable to meanness, selfishness, thoughtlessness, or harshness. The anger at play in these crises is often palpable, and inhumanity is an enabler and accelerator of disaster and crisis. Thankfully, humanity is often the saviour; wouldn’t it be good if it was the foundation from which we all worked? Wouldn’t it be a much better use of energy?
Who would think? Love, social intelligence and kindness as the basis of success in business.