Kindness? What’s that?


I was having a conversation with someone working with the Singapore Kindness Movement this morning. Nothing profound or philosophical, just what his typical day was like, how he got started and so forth. He had left his previous job because he felt that the management there didn’t do what they were supposed to be doing, which was to manage. Facilities were unkempt, purchases were made without looking into details about whether the products purchased were of the desired quality, operations were haphazard; you could go on and on. He liked his current job in Singapore Kindness Movement because he was in charge of raising public awareness and people development programs, and was given the space to do as he saw fit.

Was he a kind man by nature, manifested in behaviour? Just based on that conversation I had with him, would I continue to believe that the Singapore Kindness Movement manifests its name in the way it conducts its business? Yes, you bet I do.

Too many of us, I suspect, confuse kindness with weakness. Yes, we all swear and declare that kindness ISN’T weakness, but our true beliefs are exhibited in our conduct, our speech, our behaviours when we think no one else is looking. Littering when we think that there are no policemen around, or that the cameras they’ve installed are somehow unmonitored. The cameras ARE largely unmonitored, because no organization on earth could monitor that many cameras, and despite all that hype about Artificial Intelligence, or Artificial Ignorance, as some of us see it, people fancy that they know which cameras are “seeing” and which are not. Let me tell you something. ALL the cameras are seeing. Bringing justice or reward to bear is a matter of deciding to enforce and/ or praise. Even if the cameras aren’t all seeing, your conscience still sees, if you’ve kept it alive, that is. Knowing that you have been good, that you have been an encouragement to others to be good, that you have made this life better for others simply by being good yourself, is by itself very rewarding. Yes, it is very fulfilling to be good, and one cannot be kind if one is not good. So, what is kindness?

  1. Kindness is doing what you said you would do.

This may not seem to make sense to you, but doing what you said you would do is actually being very kind. It gives those who have to depend on your word the confidence that they can trust what you have said or implied. Yes, even if that means having to eat of the bitter consequences of your misdemeanours or of not keeping YOUR word. Even more than that, it is dishing out similar hard chastisement upon those who do NOT keep THEIR word. DWYSYWD.

2. Kindness is to work hard and make as much profit as you can for yourself.

This is not encouraging you to be greedy in the grasping, cheating sense of the word. People have two basic motivations, the fear of loss and the desire for gain. Both are perfectly legitimate. If you gain profits for yourself, it simply means that you are diligent and applying yourself to whatever it is you work at, whether as an independent business person or whether you happen to work for others. You will be paid according to what you value you produce. This is always true unless you are a slave in a slave economy. Most people living in the so-called “free world”, including my nation of Singapore, are NOT living in a slave economy. Look up the history of slavery if you don’t believe me.

3. Kindness is protecting the good and smacking evil down hard.

Notice. I didn’t say to protect the weak ONLY. I said protect the good. Deal with unkindness by rebuking and chastising where you are authorized and where you can. Encourage acts of kindness where possible. Demonstrate kindness yourself. Make the unpopular choices and the hard rules and regulations if it is within your bailiwick. Remember, laws, rules, regulations, ordinances and so forth exist because the nature of fallen human beings necessitates their proscription. These externally-imposed laws can only be removed once they have become second nature. In other words, externally-imposed rules of law can be tucked away once it becomes evident that they are inscribed in our hearts, that they have become our culture. Yes, goodness should be what defines a culture. Not ludicrous embellishments like having “hawker centre life” recognized as part of our “heritage”.

Is that good enough for you to always choose to be kind? Yogi Berra is quoted as having said “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Choose the kind one.

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