Sunday, April 10, 2011

Intelligence vs. Kindness

When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people. -Abraham Joshua Heschel (via)
Intelligence is so over-hyped and over-rated!  As a child, my intelligence was honed sharply from birth.  All the music, the education, and the extracurricular activities were aimed at putting me at the top of the brightest and best.  My intelligence was to be used to change the world -- to fix all its problems, to make a difference.

While kindness was not optional, it was (ironically) enforced in a very unkind manner.  I was expected (based on my intelligence, I suppose) to be capable of age-inappropriate feats, such as being thoughtful at the age of four.*  And kindness to others was often motivated by our duty as privileged people, not as a natural consequence of being interconnected.

I have overcome a great deal of my elitist upbringing, although there is still much to do.  I attribute much of my success to my inner sense of justice, which has always been with me.**  My intelligence has also played a role, allowing me to think abstractly about others' hurtful behaviors, rather than being immediately insulted; broadening my outlook on the world around me; and giving me the ability to process stimuli in several ways before settling on a conclusion.

Kindness is my connection to humanity -- it is the love I feel for those I know and those I don't; those who are kind to me and those who are not; those who are hurting and facing injustice.

Becoming a mother has dramatically increased my kindness and sensitivity towards others, especially children.  Children are the most vulnerable human beings on earth, and I feel compelled to do what I can to help make their lives better.

While I know I cannot save the world (certainly not with my intelligence alone!), I can create a little ripple where I am that will propagate to those around me.  And perhaps if I make that wave, they will be inspired to create a wave of their own, and before long, the whole seascape has been redefined.

* As the mother of a four-year-old, I can tell you it is IMPOSSIBLE for them to be thoughtful.  It's just something their brains are lacking at this point in development.  The trick is to model the behavior you want them to eventually develop.

** My mom was once called out of the church service because in my Sunday School class we were playing Musical Chairs, which I found to be an unjust game because not everyone got to have a chair!  I threw a fit and they had to get her there to calm me down.

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