I once taught healthy living techniques to adjudicated teenage girls who lived together in a group home. One girl, Diamond, came up to me after our weekly meeting, and said “I’m getting out next week and am going back to my family. But please don’t tell any of the other girls that, because they will do their best to get me into trouble so that I have to stay here longer.” This was about the saddest thing I ever heard, the girls sabotaging each other and ultimately themselves by creating an atmosphere of nastiness and distrust.
The next week Diamond had left and in our meeting we were talking about how we would change ourselves to make our lives better. I took the opportunity to look at them all, one by one, full in the eyes, and said that kindness was the most important thing in life, that giving kindness to others would create so much more kindness coming back to them. And, that it was my sincerest wish that they would all practice kindness during the coming week, even when not feeling the person kindness was directed toward deserved it. They took it in with attention and solemnity. I hope it helped some in their difficult circumstances.
Why is kindness such a hard thing to learn? It seems as though it should be inborn. This is why forgiveness is so important when kindness doesn’t come as expected. We can only teach love when we return kindness in the face of callousness and even cruelty.