Does kindness have real, practical value in a hard, harsh, contentious world? Is it a strength or a weakness?
Consider the story of Aldous Huxley.
Despite failing health, Julia Huxley poured her life into educating her son, Aldous. She died when he was 14.
Before she died, she gave him this advice:
“Be not too critical of others and love much.”
Aldous would go on to write more than 50 books, including Brave New World. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize seven times.
During the 1930s, he moved to Los Angeles and made up to $3,000 a week (a phenomenal sum at that time) writing screenplays. He used much of this money to help get Jewish refugees out of Germany as World War II loomed.
In the 1960s, when Aldous was dying of throat cancer, he wrote:
“It’s a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘Try to be a little kinder.’”
Across the decades, through a lifetime, his mother’s simple advice paid substantial dividends.
As Ian McClaren, English author and theologian put it:
“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
It’s tempting to sometimes feel that kindness and humanity simply have no place in a tense, harsh situation.
“That person is just too ornery.” “The environment at work is just too tense.” “This relationship is just too difficult.” “The world is just too hard.”
But in reality, the opposite is true.
The harsher the world, the more difficult a relationship, the more tense and stressful a situation, the crankier the person—the greater the need for kindness.