This morning, I heard a local radio DJ complaining about someone who had written a series of mean emails. The DJ told his co-host, “I could get angry or aggressive, but I prefer to kill ‘em with kindness.” The co-host agreed. I cringed.
I know people who say this believe they’re taking the high road. But that age-old adage – “kill them with kindness” – still implies that you’re seeking revenge, just in a non-traditional way. Okay, so you’re not going to beat your foe over the head or engage in verbal warfare. Good decisions. But you still have a subtly devious plan: to confuse and bewilder your opponent with compliments and niceties. Perhaps all those saccharine-sweet gestures and comments will break down your rival’s willpower or cause him to flee the scene altogether!
Here’s the problem: kindness is not meant to be used as a weapon. It is innate and unconditional, genuine and whole-hearted. Real kindness comes from a place of compassion and benevolence. It fills you up while lifting others up.
On several occasions this school year, my eight year old has come home feeling deflated by mean comments from a classmate. When this happens, I remind him that the main reason kids try to hurt other kids – with words or actions – is because they themselves are hurting inside. Same thing with adults (you’d think we’d eventually grow out of it!). No one on Earth who feels secure and loved feels a need to create drama or be unkind. Appreciating this universal truth kicks your compassion for others into high gear and frees you from the chains of “playing” nice.
Try this on for size: when someone makes you feel bad, allow yourself to feel bad for them. Wait – what?? I know – it sounds odd and feels uncomfortable at first (but hey – no more so than living a lie in an attempt to kill someone with kindness). Now, I’m not telling you to shut up and put up with another person’s nastiness. I’m saying that before you respond, remind yourself that drama queens and bullies have one thing in common: damaged, bleeding hearts. So, before you give in to that guilt trip or react to those untruths they’re spewing, ask yourself these questions:
Recognizing that this person is hurting deeply enough to lash out is important for your own sanity (though there’s no need to verbalize this to the person; let them figure out their own issues). On top of that knowledge, remembering that you’re far too wise and strong to let their negative talk and tricks have power over you can be deeply transformational. You’ll actually want to be authentically considerate in your responses. Not because you want to kill them with kindness, but because you want to bless them with kindness.