Why Be Kind?
Good morning, it is so good to be with you. As I was thinking about this talk, thinking about how these last couple of months have been crazy hard, scary, frustrating - you can fill in the blanks. The last 18 months, for me, have made me think a lot about how we treat each other, and how we can be more aware of each other - and to be kind. Always be kind. I believe kindness is an essential part of the first and great commandment.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Over 30 years ago, Camilla Kimball said, “As we look about us at the lack of love of God or of fellowmen in the world today, we realize that failing to keep these commandments has brought the world into the state of war and contention in which we find it. What can we do as individuals about this situation? Are we honestly able to look to the welfare of our neighbors and to be as concerned about them as we are about ourselves?” This is so true today, maybe even more so than it was over three years ago. We live in a world where unkind, horrible, actually really nasty things are shouted on social media.
Sister Kimball asks, “What can we do as individuals about this situation?” I realize it sounds simplistic to say, “Be kind.” And I do believe consistent kindness can change the world, but it's not simple, and it's not easy. So, what does it mean to be kind? In Moroni, in his discourse on charity, he talks about some of the characteristics of that love or charity or kindness. Charity suffereth long and is kind, is envious not and does not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked. It's not evil and rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. When you think about this for a minute and ponder on what the world would look like if we were all patient and we didn't get angry, that we're not selfish that we're hopeful, we would not be so angry and thoughtless and unkind to each other.
So, start thinking about the kind of person that you want to be. How do we develop these characteristics that Moroni talked about regarding kindness? Here are some things that I've noticed in my life. I'm not consistently kind. It's something I have to work on, again and again, sometimes it's just easier to be indifferent. Sometimes it's easier to be mean, but being kind is a skill, and skills can be developed. We can start with the basics, and it doesn't get more basic than what advice Thumper’s dad gave to him, "You remember, Thumper," Cute, cute bunny in Bambi says, “If you can't say anything nice, don't say nothing at all.”
While basic, this is much harder than it sounds. If I took this advice, I'm sure I would have days when I never opened my mouth. Always assume that people are doing their very best that they can. When I assume someone is doing the very best they can, I tend to be less judgmental and unkind. It builds empathy, and I hope that they would assume the same thing about me that I am doing the very best that I can.
Just because it's true, or right, doesn't mean you have to say it out loud or post it for that matter. I figured this out late in life when I was traveling with a colleague and we were talking about work, and she talked and talked and talked, and I listened and listened to her rant about how she didn't like so and so and how dumb management was. Sad to say I just really sat there and listened. And it went on and on, and much of what she said was accurate. It's like working at any place - you're going to be frustrated with management and other employees. However, saying that doesn't make it better. The problem does not go away. I felt frustrated and cranky, and my head hurt. If it's true, you don't have to say it. We all want to be right, and we want others to know we are right. We also try to camouflage our mean or divisive comments.
Here's an example of what I mean by camouflage: In the southern United States there's a phrase that says, “Bless her heart.” If you add bless her heart, or his heart, to the end of anything you say, it's okay. It doesn't count as criticism. So, for example, I'm shopping and I see this woman walking down the street and I say, “She really thinks she can get away with wearing those pants? Bless her heart.” Or see a guy and I say, “Someone's been spending too much time watching TV and not enough time at the gym, bless his heart.” Maybe all laugh and feel good about each other because bless her heart makes everything okay, but it really doesn't. The thought and the intent, whether with unkind emojis, or the bless her heart of your generation, think about this: How many of you have sent or received a text, or a message saying something unkind or something you wouldn't say to their face? And at the very end, there is this smiley face emoji? We think that little yellow face makes our technically correct, unkind statements okay.
If you have to add an emoji as a way to say "just kidding," don't send the text. It does not lessen the unkindness in a text or tweet. "Bless her heart" does not lessen the hurt of an unkind word.
There's a great quote by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, he says, “When given a choice between being right and kind, choose kind.” I love how he says, “Choose kind, being kind, is a choice.” And it's a choice we need to make dozens and dozens of times every day. We need to practice being kind. I know that sounds weird, and maybe we need to practice just keeping our mouth shut, but when in doubt, keep your mouth and your phone shut.
Sister Okazaki, who was a well-beloved counselor in the general Relief Society presidency said, “Brothers and sisters, we never know how far the effects of our service will reach. We cannot afford to be cruel, or indifferent, or ungenerous because we are all connected, even if it is in a pattern that only God sees.” I strongly believe that kindness is a spiritual gift, such as faith or the gift of tongues and others - we can seek earnestly. Moroni continued in his sermon on charity, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that he may be filled with this love, which he has bestowed upon all who are true followers of His Son, Jesus Christ, that you may become the sons of God, that when he shall appear, we shall be like Him for what we see Him, for we shall see Him as He is, that we may have this hope that we may be purified, as He is pure, we can seek and pray for our hearts to be filled with kindness."
We're all blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost and the other assistance of spiritual gifts that come to those who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost. It's also important to remember that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. So, we can choose to be kind, but we can also choose how we react when people are unkind to us. Elder Bernard said in a conference talk, “When we believe, or say we have been offended, we usually feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed or disrespected, and certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it is ultimately impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make, it is not a condition inflicted upon us. We can choose not to.”
I'm telling you to think about a lot of things, but if we really understand that, we can choose not to be offended by another's actions or comments. You can resist that temptation to harbor a grudge against that individual or exchange mean words with them or send a nasty text with a smile-yellow emoji face. It really is exhausting to be offended by someone for an extended period of time. And finally, we have the perfect example of how to treat others in our Savior Jesus Christ. I think of the way He was with the woman caught in adultery or the man at the pool of Bethesda. I think about how He greeted and wept with Martha and Mary after the death of Lazarus, even though he knew Lazarus would live.
Not only did He show us the way, He gave us the gift of the Atonement that can bear us up as we struggle with a natural person who is so often, unkind.
One of my favorite scriptures is in Alma 7. And it says, “And He shall go forth suffering pains and afflictions, and temptations of every kind. And this that the word might be fulfilled which sayeth if he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of His people and He will take upon him death, that He may loose the bands of death which bind His people, and He will take upon him their infirmities that his vows may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know, according to the flesh how to sucker people according to their remedies.”
Elder Bednar continued, "The merits and mercy and grace of the Holy Messiah can help us triumph over the self-centered, and selfish tendencies of the natural man and become more selfless and benevolent. We are exhorted to live so live that we can stand spotless at the very last day."
And it is my prayer, and my hope that all of us can follow that first and great commandment, to love God and to love each other, and that as we show Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ that we love them, we are being kind. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.