My new message. I’ve said for a long time the world need more kindness. Not just random acts of kindness, which also matter, but everyday kindness. We need people who know how much it means to make someone smile each day. We do need kindness. But even more than needing kindness, I’ve noticed lately we simply need less cruelty. We could break cruelty down into a few pieces, starting with entitlement. Cruelty can be described on many levels, but I feel entitlement is an important place to start. Why are people cruel? Why did I read this morning a news story about a baby dolphin dying on a beach because humans were passing it around to take selfies? That kind of thing shouldn’t happen. I can’t imagine all of these people are cruel by nature. But they do feel some sort of entitlement. They do think about the amount of likes, hearts, and thumbs up they will get on social media if their selfie included a baby dolphin. But at some point the idea they had of being entitled to a picture with a baby dolphin turned into a reality of a picture with a dead dolphin who only wanted to be home in the water. The fine line between being kind and not being cruel can be seen here. No one would have thought it overly kind to put the animal back in the water. But many, including myself, think it’s cruel to keep the animal out of the water to the effect of his death. Entitlement reaching to cruelty happens all too often. And it doesn’t always involves innocent animals. Sometimes people are involved.
If you’ve read my blog before, you may know my daughter has a long history of being bullied. I’ve asked children over and over why they feel the need to be cruel. What do you have to gain from making someone else miserable? What do you have to gain from being the reason someone smiles? I can’t answer the first. I have no idea what there is to gain in making someone sad. Maybe some feel powerful. Maybe some feel better about themselves. But I can’t imagine cruelty offers enough positive energy to sustain a person for the entire day. However, making someone feel good, bringing a smile to someone’s face, especially if they are having a bad day to begin with, offers an energy which cannot be replicated. It’s almost like eating a full healthy breakfast in the morning. Walking away from someone who feels happier because of something you offered, a joke, help with a task, a compliment, feels warm, fuzzy, enlightening, and grounding. It is something which can hold your hand throughout the rest of your day.
So why are people cruel? There are many theories from envy to learning the behaviors from an early age. To a point, we will often follow the path laid in front of us, so if a child is raised in an abusive home, often they become the abuser. But not in every case. Plenty of people have proudly broken a circle before they became the victim and abuser. Some say it’s just the nature of certain people. No matter their family life, they are simply who they are. I think if we wanted to change, we could. If we were willing to look deep inside ourselves and find a willingness to work. It’s not easy to lose weight. It’s not easy to get up every day, go to the gym, and eat every meal mindful of weight loss goals. It’s not easy for an addict to give up their addictions. But it’s also not impossible. People do it every day. We can wake every day and choose not to be cruel. We can even choose to be kind.
I remind my children of human relationships each day. I tell them they won’t like every kid in their school. And not everyone will like them either. Neither of these facts makes anyone a bad person. We are all different. And in my family, we celebrate differences. We celebrate with silly songs, dances, and lots of giggles. We are not perfect. We make mistakes. We react. Sometimes we even react to cruelty. And sometimes even in a cruel manner. But I have a rule in my home. I’ve asked my children for years to always be kind. Be polite. Be respectful. You don’t have to bring someone else down to pull yourself up. There’s never a reason to be cruel. My daughter comes home every day talking about the cruelty at school. Useless, hurtful comments made to her about her clothing, her hair, her back pack, what she eats, how she walks, her voice, if you can imagine it, kids at her school had said something cruel to her about it. She has been kicked, pushed, tripped, and made fun of when she drops things, walks, dances, or simply exists. I don’t begin to understand it.
But I am starting to understand that my initial kindness matters and simply be kind campaign was not as simple as I thought. The first thing we need to be teaching our children is to not be cruel. Please teach your children they are not expected to like everyone they meet. They will not click with everyone they meet. But the fact they do not like someone does not entitle them to be cruel. Not liking someone doesn’t entitle anyone to cruelty. It doesn’t make name calling acceptable. Not liking someone doesn’t make cruel comments tolerable. I’ve tried to tell my children all the many possible reasons kids are cruel to them. I’ve practically begged them not to be cruel in turn. I can walk away each morning knowing I’ve done my best. I wonder at times if other parents can say the same. I know it’s judgmental to say that. I don’t pretend to know what it is like to walk in another’s shoes. But I also wonder what guidance a child who is cruel day in and day out has at home and at school. Once I walk away from my children each morning, I can only hope my teachings have sunk in. I can only hope they are kind when I’m not around. I do know they know how it feels to be dragged down day after day. I hope this very moment they are the reason someone is smiling. I hope right now they are ignoring the cruelty they face each day. Cruelty for simply existing.
So my request today is simple. Don’t be cruel. Don’t be mean. Accept someone you don’t like for just that. But don’t push them down. If you can do that one simple thing today, try the other simple thing. Be kind. My daughter might be clumsy. She might be pushed more than she tells me. I’m not sure. But she talks about falling down a lot while at school. She’s fallen down steps, in front of crowds, and all by herself in a quiet hallway. She’s also told me she’s not the only clumsy kid there. She’s made a few friends by being kind and helping those kids who have fallen pick up their belongings and sometimes their pride before moving on. I hope she’s always that person. The one who will help when someone has fallen down. The one who is not cruel. The one who is kind.
Do not be cruel is a message I am surprised isn’t out in the universe just yet. I think for many of us it is common sense. For others cruelty is second nature. So, today, I ask that you not be cruel.