“It is much harder to be kind than clever.”
I thought of this statement while reading the posts that have been sprouting up for the last couple of days, commenting on 双流 ’s story based on her real-life experiences.
I, for one, have really enjoyed her story and appreciated her willingness to share her experience. It is through her candid and unpretentious writing that I was able to catch a glimpse of her experience with vividness. There is no question, 双流 writes well and has a gift for story-telling. Yet, it wasn’t just her writing skill that made her story so appealing to me, it was her willingness to share her inner world so intimately, truthfully and vulnerably that pulled me in. Her honest expressions of her feelings made her story that much richer, that much fuller, that much more real, and without which, the story would have just been another beautiful, yet empty and fleshless shell.
Even though I don’t have the same life experience as her, it does not stop me from resonating with her emotions, for emotions are universal. Who among us has not experienced feelings ranging from joy, wonderment, excitement to frustration, loneliness and pain? It is often the emotion behind the experience that connects us all. And when someone is so generous as to open their emotions up and share them so truthfully in their writing, it is like a gift, to the reader.
It is through 双流 ’s vulnerability, revealed in her writing, that I see a real human being, who lives her life, searches, asks questions, reflects on her experiences, wonders about the meaning of it all, just like the rest of us; And what impresses me the most, is the fact that she is able to face that part of her life honestly and she sees no reason to hide her true feelings when telling her story. She is not here to tell a story of the bravado, she is here to tell a first-person account of her unique life experience. In her vulnerability, I see much courage, for it takes courage to show the real person behind all the masks, let alone showing the real “you” so publicly on a discussion forum.
So it is with some surprise that I started reading some of the ensuing posts written in reaction to 双流 ’s story. I must admit that I was appalled by the language and the judgmental tone of some of the comments; I was almost ready to write reply posts and tell the posters to get off their high horse and stop drawing up conclusions based on faulty assumptions, and most of all, to stop making hurtful remarks about someone else’s characters and someone else’s life.
In the midst of all that, I remembered a story, told by Jeff Bezos, founder and the CEO of Amaon.com, which helped to put my view in perspective.
As a child, Jeff often spent his summer with his grandparents. He was a restless and intelligent child who was good at calculating. One day, he saw an antismoking ad on TV, the announcer declared that a smoker was shortening his life span by two minutes for every minute he took a puff of a cigarette. This information caught Jeff’s attention as his grandmother was a smoker. After much calculation, Jeff concluded that his grandmother was taking 16 years off of her life by smoking. The next time the three of them traveled in the same car, Jeff made his announcement just as his grandmother lit up a cigarette: “You’ve taken sixteen years off of your life from smoking.” he then proceeded with his explanation of the math. His grandmother bursted into tears.
Jeff’s grandpa, who had been driving in silence, carefully pulled to the side of the road. He got out of the car and asked Jeff to follow. After several minutes of walking in silence, his grandfather stopped and looked at him, put his hand on his shoulder and said: “You’ll learn one day that it’s much harder to be kind than clever.”
As I thought of that story, my anger slowly dissipated. I remembered that years ago, in my twenties and early thirties, I was once harsh as well, unforgiving with my words, I was critical of others yet I thought I was being helpful with my sharp words. I thought I knew much more about things than I actually did, my view of the world was black and white; I highly prized the notion of being intelligent and thought of things such as vulnerability as a sign of weakness.
Yet, over time, life and experiences taught me otherwise. Gradually, I learned some things that I never would have agreed with in my arrogant younger years.
I’ve learned that my “truth” isn’t necessarily everyone else’s truth;
I’ve learned that my subjective opinions of others and the world are just that, they are subjective and not universal;
I’ve learned that the world isn’t made up of the color black and white, there is such a place as grey area;
I’ve learned that everything happens in the world doesn’t always have to be categorized as right or wrong;
I’ve learned that kindness, along with respect and acceptance of others, come with wisdom.
And most of all,
I’ve learned that it is much harder to be kind than clever.
We all have the freedom to speak our truths, yet this freedom is not unlimited, use it with discretion. Our desire to speak our thoughts truthfully needs to be balanced with consideration and kindness to others. Speaking our thoughts truthfully is a privilege, sprinkle it with kindness, and always keep in mind that silence is gold when we have nothing kind to say.
I’ll end this post with Jeff Bezos’ own words of the lesson he learned from his grandfather on that day:
“I had always admired my grandfather for his intelligence, but that day I began to understand that his intelligence was only a gift that he had been given. It was the kindness with which he chose to apply it that he could be proud of. It’s something I’ve been working on ever since.”
我认为，说话不伤人和直抒己见不是对立的，为什么一说到要注意一下措辞，就说限制个人发表意见，就说要戴面具。如果，你不戴面具的时候说的都是伤人的话，那岂不可怕，我倒是宁愿相信那是你对自己的误解。如果你觉得自己的观点一定是要用伤害人的话才能表达出来的，那么，我只能说问题可能是出在communication skill上面了。Speak honestly and truthfully with kindness 不是一句矛盾的话，如果你认为是矛盾的，那么你对honesty 和kindness的定义与我的不同。