You’ve heard it, right? That tug of war inside your head when you have to decide which is a better road to take?
About six weeks ago, I was trying to teach my daughter something in math and was getting exceedingly frustrated by the fact that she couldn’t understand such a simple formula. In exasperation, I remarked: “You know, I’ve taught so many students and have never faced this kind of resistance from any of them. Not once!”
In a quiet voice, she remarked: Did they like you?
Stung by the implication, I got up and walked away, not trusting myself to answer the question, perhaps worried that I wouldn’t be able to face myself as a result.
Time passed and as my thoughts returned to the topic, it appeared as if she were right. I was so insistent on being right and having things done right where she was concerned, that I’d given up kindness in favour of being right.
As it turned out, that seemed to have seeped a good deal into my social media persona as well and the realisation shook me.
As a blogger/ writer/editor, I don’t always read with my heart, especially when it concerns written material online or in books. Let me explain.
If I love a book/author, the writing will reel me in, hold me in a vice and not let me put the book down until I’ve devoured every sentence on every page and can breathe the essence of the work into my being. Here, the heart holds sway.
If, however, a piece doesn’t speak to me or is badly written, poorly edited and turns me off, I confess that I feel anything but kindness towards the writer. That’s the head at work. It’s also another reason I rarely do book reviews on my blog. A part of me wants to steer clear of wilfully hurting someone through my words.
For a long time, I justified this by saying that this is necessary and to a large extent, as an editor, it still is. In good faith, I cannot let a badly-written copy pass on to the published page. The same is true of myself as a blogger.
But, as a reader, I must distinguish the head from the heart. It’s imperative that I try and read for the effort and perhaps skim over errors here and there, if the writer has taken a piece of her soul and put it down for the world to see. That takes courage, more than we care to admit.
So, as I see it, there are four quadrants to the kind/right permutation.
A) Being kind but not right: This is where we’re usually trying to make people feel better but we’re actually wrong in our assessment.
B) Being right but not kind: Here, you’re obviously right, but you’ve got a bad way of showing it.
C) Being neither kind nor right: This is the worst probably and is best evidenced by troll-like behaviour on social media.
D) Being both kind and right: This is ideal and probably the most easy/difficult thing to get right depending on who you are.
I find myself staring down that fork in the path almost everyday now. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that everyone today has an opinion and doesn’t shy away from expressing it. Well, that’s what we bloggers use as an excuse to say what we have to say, most of the time.
If I had to be honest, I’d say I mostly fall in the ‘B’ quadrant but keep aspiring to be in ‘D’. Perhaps , with practise and conscious mindfulness, I can be there more often: the kind category, always. Because, as Wayne Dyer said:
So, tell me, given a choice, what would you choose?
Being kind or being right or both?