Thinking About Kindness (Again)
I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness for the past couple of weeks, mainly because I’ve seen so many people talking about the need to be kind, to forgive, to build bridges and extend an olive branch to the people who voted differently from us. As an organizer, I know that it’s important to leave the door open for people who want to find their way into a movement, that it’s important to welcome newcomers instead of berating them for taking so long. But this is key: in this example the new arrival wants to join you.
I know I’m not the only one thinking about this, of course:
A critical part of forgiveness is the injuring party wanting to be forgiven. Forgiving someone who isn’t sorry is unhealthy.— Daniel Abraham (@AbrahamHanover) November 7, 2020
It is also not within one's power to forgive someone for the harm they have done to others.— Leslie What (@leslie_what) November 7, 2020
The thing is, I do believe in kindness and compassion for everyone. I really do. I’ve written about having compassion for my abusers. But I’ve also written about how kindness and compassion are not the same as deference or politeness. I don’t believe that answering cruelty with cruelty is either moral or practical. Moreover, I believe that allowing someone else’s cruelty and callousness to make me cruel and callous hurts me more than anything else—only I can decide what sort of person I want to be, and letting someone else turn me into someone I don’t want to be isn’t okay with me.
But having compassion, being kind, listening, leaving the door open—none of these mean that I’m obligated to continue letting people have the power to harm me, nor do they mean that I should stop advocating for my own rights and protection.
There’s a lot more to say about all of that, of course, but I’ll leave it there. I hope you’re well, or at least as well as can be.