By: Todd Whiteman
“Choose Being Kind Over Being Right”
“To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times, what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks but a special heart that listens.” F Scott Fitzgerald
The start of the 2020-21 school year has begun, in the midst of national pandemic COVID 19, with a NEW NORMALCY for our students, staff, families, and community. There are several students and families that have chosen the remote online educational platform, several have chosen in-person educational platform. Required masks, shields, limited movement, social distancing are new barriers we face daily in the current educational world. There is great fear and concern when students or staff test positive and that has a huge ripple effect in the homes, school, and community. I am proud of how our students, families, and our staff have handled all the changes and protocols. When I ask students how things are going the number one response I get is “it’s going good but it is weird.” The new-look of education has created a smaller subdued atmosphere.
That being said the biggest challenge I see today is NOT the national pandemic itself and the barriers it presents. The greatest challenge in our country right now is the NEED to be Right. There are so many critical issues we are faced with today’s world: social inequality and injustices, churches being burned down, police brutality, hatred and a call to defund the police, political views and debates, medical views, first responders, Covid-19 perspectives/ views, riots, protests, and should kids go to school or go online.
Our country is greatly divided and currently toxic as these critical issues are at the forefront! Social media has created a toxic hateful platform for people to be right and hide behind a typed statement. Our personal views and beliefs are critical however the need to be right when expressing them is wrong. The NEED to BE KIND is MORE Important than being Right. If we truly want change for the better we need to choose to be kind over being right. Being kind and listening to people are often more important than constantly seeking to be right and prove others wrong. No one wins when you spend your time trying to convince others they are wrong. No ONE WINS
A conversation about who’s right and who’s wrong is one of either two things: an echo chamber or an argument. When we think about it, very rarely do either get us to change our minds and think back to the last argument you had with someone you disagreed with — did you think differently by the end of it or did your own beliefs only get stronger?
Giving up the need to be right about everything was one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned. It was because I found things more important than that: fulfilling people and fulfilling relationships fuels the tank. The ability to listen and connect to others who have different views, the ability to respect their views, while staying true to my belief is a wonderful gift. As Mathew 6:1 goes: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, and for you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
Again I still have my personal beliefs that I am entrenched in. I believe them because I feel they are right and I often vote or act based on my belief system. I am not EVER saying WE SHOULDN”T STAND BY OR UP FOR OUR BELIEFS COURAGEOUSLY. What we should do is control how we treat others by being kind, listening, showing empathy as those things are much more important than being right. I can assure you no one has ever said” I told you so” on their deathbed.
Those who may not have experienced — or recognized — the power of kindness may scoff that such a “soft” quality has any value. Many people equate “kind” with “weak.” They consider kind individuals to be ones of whom they can take advantage, people who will not stand up to confrontation. They have not yet seen that kindness is an unmatched strength, a “super-power” that has the capacity to change the world if enough of us claim that power and exercise that strength.
Just as there is a vast difference between kind and weak, there’s a substantial distinction between kind and nice. They are two very different things. Kind is as different from nice as smart is from wise. Being kind — truly kind — is hard. Nice requires little effort. I can be nice while also being indifferent, critical, and even sarcastic. But I can’t be kind and be any of those things. Being kind means making an effort. It means thinking about how I can give someone what they need without worrying about getting anything in return. It means letting go of my judgments and accepting people as they are.
Nice doesn’t ask all that much of us. One can be nice without expending too much energy or investing too much of oneself. One can be nice without taking risks. Nice is holding the door, smiling at the cashier; nice may even be dropping a couple of dollars in a homeless person’s hand if we do so without looking him in the eye and saying a genuinely caring word. Kind is asking how we can help, offering our hand, jumping in without being asked, and engaging in conversation that goes beyond the superficial.
If kindness were easy, though, we’d see a lot more of it. Kindness asks more of us than we may be ready to give. How we choose to respond to harsh words, embarrassment, or a perceived slight speaks volumes about who we are. Our immediate response is often to respond in a similar manner, to retaliate or belittle. Remembering that our perceptions aren’t always accurate offers us an opportunity to control our reactions.
I think the desire to be right is another survival mechanism that people use to ensure they are important. The belief that the truth is absolute and that our aim in life is to find it and live by it is false. Trying to make others live by our truth is even worse. This mindset brings lots of pain and misery to everybody and if we want happiness to come into our life, we need to let go of our desire to be right. People who are secure trust that they are OK, that their beliefs are good for them and that they only need to follow what is right for them, so they do not need to “prove their points” to others.
The concept of being right is a relative concept and always stands opposite being wrong. When you have a high need to advertise your “rightness”, you are trying to force your surroundings to fit into your definition of right and wrong. This is the source of many conflicts in our society. Enforcing your beliefs and thoughts on others is crippling, painful, and creates hate.
When two people look at a cone from different angles, they may see different things. If they have to approach this shape from where they stand, they may approach it differently. For someone viewing from the side of the cone, it looks like a triangle, but for someone viewing from the top, it looks like a circle with a dot in the middle. These two people might have a conflict, with one of them screaming, “But this is a triangle” and the other one crying out, “How come you can’t see that this is a circle? Are you blind?” Both of them are looking at the same shape and both are right, but no matter how long they talk about it or try to sort out the conflict, they will both keep seeing the shape from their own personal view.
Many people find it hard to let go of the desire to be right all the time and they cannot stand the thought of not being right, not to mention being wrong. The result of that is always risking damaging their relationships and causing themselves and others stress and pain. The desire to be “right” is a struggle to protect a fragile ego.
As a country, we are boiling with so much need to be right in our views. It is important to be strong in your own personal beliefs and convictions but by no means are we ever entitled to tell someone else that their beliefs or views or wrong. Being kind does not mean you concede and believe that someone else believes. It is simply being kind enough to respect how they see things and create a form of empathy. We cannot tell others this is what they need to do, what they need to believe because that imposes what we think is “right” on them. May we all choose being kind over being right. After all, having someone tell us see I told you I was right has never increased collaboration or unity. Choose the mindset of Being Kind Over Being Right!
“If we choose kindness we are always right!”
Todd Whiteman – Superintendent Foxfire Schools