The Kindness Problem

The Kindness Problem – May 19, 2011

I work in government institution where my job involves making sure that people follow the rules. There is a very strong temptation to bend the rules ‘to be kind’. A common source of rule breaking is being late. My colleagues were very strict about lateness and I thought they were being harsh. Then I let in a late person and I realized how letting in one late person made everyone wait as instructions were read again. It also nullified the extra effort made by the people who arrived early because they were allowing extra time for the sort of contingencies that late people claim caused them to be late. By being kind to one person I was actually being unkind to many others. You could argue that I was abusing my position by using it to force many people to be kind, something that might be one of my values but not necessarily one of theirs. I have come up with an aphorism to guide me when to be kind. It is “Be kind on your own dime”. It simply means that if I am to be kind I am the one who should pay the price not the company and not everyone around me.

There is another reason for not being kind to the tardy. The late person is being denied a lesson. When I attended university they gave a seminar on job interview skills and the doors were locked at precisely the start time. If you came late and pulled on that locked door you still got an important lesson in job interviewing, don’t be late! Similarly, a former drug addict was being interviewed on the local public radio station. The man being interviewed explained how nothing worked (to get him off drugs) until his friends stopped helping him. He said ‘there is something called giving the gift of desperation’. It is also called tough love in some quarters.

I have no idea of when and where to exhibit tough love but based on how often God shows it to us – by not answering our prayers – I suspect that we Christians should show it more that we do.

Remember, Humility is the Key to Everything.

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