Kindness is the character trait I’ve been working on the most with Charlotte. At three years, 10 months old, she is definitely egocentric, and she has a long way to go before she masters empathy. She sees things as black or white, real or pretend, right or wrong. And right now, her focus is how people or situations make her feel, rather than how they make anyone else feel. As a result, her responses are not always kind.
She’s brave, though. Her bravery is bold, and it fills me with pride. She makes new friends quickly and easily, because she has no qualms with engaging with kids she’s never met before. She tries new activities and challenges herself, even if at first she’s nervous. As a former scared kid who missed out on a lot because I wasn’t brave, she inspires me.
Recently, every time I drop Charlotte off at school or any other place where I’m leaving her, I look her in the eye and say “I love you. Be kind and brave.” It’s kind of become our thing.
Kindness and bravery are equally important, and both worthy traits to strive for. My challenge right now is how to be kind, offering love, grace, and empathy, while at the same time being brave and speaking up about those things that I feel so strongly. It’s a tricky balance, and I know I don’t always get it right.
But if I’ve learned anything from the last 48 hours, it’s that this country desperately needs both kindness and bravery. Kindness without bravery leaves lots of people feeling like their struggles and genuine hurt gets minimized by an inspirational meme or flowery Bible verse. Bravery without kindness just alienates people and causes the divide in their differences to grow.
I’ve been thinking a lot today on how I can be what I’m asking my daughter to be: kind and brave. I don’t apologize for anything I’ve written this week, because every word is my truth, and I’m still bewildered and angry. But I do apologize to anyone who feels like I was questioning their faith, accusing them of being a “bad person” or labeling them with traits that I ascribe to our next president. That was certainly not my intention, and if you felt this way, I am truly sorry.
I will, however, continue to speak out against the hateful rhetoric and unfair stereotypes that are plaguing our country right now. There’s too much at stake and too many lives that I care deeply about for me to be silent now.
I want both of these to be true for my life. I won’t always get them both right, but I’m going to keep trying.