by Wendy Strgar June 17, 2018
The work of raising my four children was rarely dull, and frequently full of drama as each child did the unpredictable and messy work of individuating while also trying to be part of the tribe. The one rule that I imposed relentlessly on my children during those years is that of kindness. I never tolerated or allowed them the liberty of unkindness. Above and beyond the admonition that we have all heard “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all,” stony silence was not acceptable either.
Instead I was deliberate about teaching my kids to become aware of the fabric of relationships with their siblings that made our family strong. I have expected, they might even say demanded, that they love each other. Outside of family life, there are plenty of people who will judge, who will slight or even belittle others, which is all the more reason that we must protect the emotional safety that is the gift of a loving family.
And yet, as I saw over and over again at many a family dinner, kindness is not our natural default. What many don’t realize is that the wounds inflicted inside the family actually have the power to cut twice as deep as the remarks of strangers or acquaintances. Sarcasm is not funny to the one who is the brunt of the comment. It erodes our sense of self almost as fast as it destroys the trust that the relationship relies upon. We are bathed in this lack of kindness, of cruel humor in the cultural insult fest which dominates our politics, entertainment, and general low standards of civility that is demonstrated on average city streets every day.
The most positive act we have at our disposal in a world reckless with unnecessary cruelty is to insist on kindness. Make it the only rule that never gets broken and see how the fabric of relationships in your world starts to mend.