The Power of Kindness

My thoughts have been turned toward the victims and survivors of the recent tragedy. It is so sad and baffling to me. Those children in that elementary school were good. Those teachers and administrators that sacrificed and did their best to protect those little ones were good as well.

But what about the shooter? Was there any scrap of goodness in him?

We will never know, since we aren’t God and can’t know all the experiences, weaknesses, troubles, and emotional drama of his life. I believe it is not our place to cast final judgment on anyone—even those who act as monsters.

Yes, we can judge barbarous acts as evil. That shooter took innocent lives that weren’t his to take. And that was wrong and sinful. But can we cast a final judgment on him? I think not. Only God can.

God has asked us to love and to forgive.

When bad things happen to us or those we love (or little ones we might not even know) love and forgiveness are usually far from our minds. Forgiveness is not just for the perpetrator of a crime though, but for the victims. It has healing power.

When we harbor hate for anyone (even when they deserve it), we commit an act of crime upon ourselves. We chain our heart and soul down to bitterness. Our wounds fester and poison us…and we cannot be happy.

I have read many WWII accounts from survivors. One of my favorites is Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. The love she showed while in a concentration camp was astonishing, yet that was the tool that helped her survive and heal. She forgave her enemies, and was set free.

A book I read this week by Lorissa Wilfong Holt, a Ukranian girl of 8 who was captured along with her Mom by the Nazis, showed this same principle. When she was a teen, she made herself forgive the Nazis, and felt free.

She said:  “Forgiveness tends to benefit the forgiver more than the forgiven. I could not change my past, but forgiving the Nazis was a gift of relief I gave to myself.”

Her mother, on the other hand, never forgave her persecutors. Lorissa said of her: “I believe that hate is like a lizard eating its own tail. That is how it was with Mother—she had been so scarred by her experiences during the war that she found it impossible to forgive. And so, bit-by-bit, hate grew in her heart until it destroyed every relationship and everything in her life.”

In the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, it says: “The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer.”

Should we mourn for what happened last week? Definitely. We have much to mourn for…but I mourn not only for the children and adults killed, but for the man who was so troubled that he could take their lives and his own. I mourn that anyone can reach that sad point, and pray that there may be an outpouring of more love in this world to prevent such acts from happening again.

There is an outcry against guns, intense discussions about making schools more secure, combating mental illness, and so on. But those won’t solve the problem. Those are like putting band-aids on a life-threatening bullet wound. Love of God and forgiveness are the only powers strong enough to overcome and defeat evil. And it starts at home.

Love your children. Raise them, instead of letting violent video games or movies do that. (TV and X-box are lousy babysitters and friends). Talk with your kids, know them, play with your families, have fun, serve others and teach youth how to have fun being kind to others. Help them not be self-absorbed in their own problems, but empathetic to others. That is how to be happy.

Call me naive, but I think kindness and love go a long way. Their power is exponential. You might not think you’re making a difference when you do something nice, but someday God will open our eyes and show us how much power our smiles and thoughtful acts had upon others for good.

My favorite Christmas movie—It’s a Wonderful Life—depicts this. One man’s goodness affected countless others. Think of what our world would be like if we all made a more concerted effort to be more charitable.

I grieve for those families who lost loved ones in this horrendous massacre. I grieve for our whole nation that these things EVER happen. But I am engaging in this war against evil. My weapons are more powerful than guns—prayer, love, forgiveness. I will train up new soldiers—my children and other youth—to be honest and kind. All parents want their children to be brilliant, beautiful, or talented…but I would feel I’d truly succeeded if my children were only kind.

I will forgive those who trespass against me, and teach my kids not to harbor bitterness for anyone. Hate is a seed that leads to cruelty and sin against oneself and others. Nothing good comes from it. May God help us all to fight the tide of evil in this world. Let us be kinder to our families, our neighbors, and even our enemies (they need it most).

Char

33 thoughts on “The Power of Kindness

  1. Amen and amen . . . . .So well said…..Our personal power to choose and follow the example of the Savior is what changes the world. Thank you for being a mom who “gets” it in parenting your children. Awesome.

  2. It’s true as parents we have so much responsibility to our children, and that includes teaching them empathy from an early age and limiting their exposure to violent games and other media. Some people are naturally more empathetic than others. Those who are less so need to be involved in ongoing dialogues fostering empathy, understanding, and “how would you feel in her shoes?” discussions.

    • So true, Carrie. I think if we had more of those dialogues at home and other places, kids would connect to the world better. It makes me sad when I see kids who never socialize even with their families. They just lock themselves in their bedrooms and play on the computer or some other game machine the rest of the day.

      • That interaction with the family is so important. Several studies have shown that something as simple as eating as a family most nights of the week decreases behavior problems in kids, including substance abuse. That communication is critical.

        • I didn’t know about that study with family eating together, but it does make me sad when I read statistics of how few families eat together now. Thanks for sharing. That is very interesting.

  3. I also think that if our news outlets would spend more time emphasizing the good that is done in the world, it would help in so many ways. No, we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to evil and hatred and cruel acts. But we should encourage positive behavior and belief as you describe, not glorify violence.

    • Yes, the good acts are labeled ‘boring’ by the media and only done on ‘slow-news’ day. Someone else made a good point that Hollywood is very hypocritical–spewing out their banning gun rallies but then putting out violent movies almost exclusively. They are really only about making money. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. But yes, I love when good things are shown (like that NY cop who bought that homeless man a pair of shoes). Those kind acts just bring a big smile to my face and let me know that there is much more good in the world than bad. The bad just gets the spotlight.

      • I love that picture and story, too, Char. If only we had as much attention paid to good deeds as bad, we’d feel we live in a more balanced world.

        For every senseless act of violence, there are countless acts of kindness that go unreported.

        Truly robs us and our children of inspiration.

  4. You have raised some very worthy virtues in your post. The families and friends of those killed will go through lengthy grieving processes and eventually most will come to accept what has happened without judgement. We can’t really understand why it happened as like you said no one knows. All we can do is provide love and support.

    • I ache for what those families will have to go through. I hope and pray God will help them find their way out of their suffering in time. I know from one aching moment in my life when we lost someone to tragedy, the love of others (even if they do nothing else but show up at the funeral) means so much. I never realized that until I experienced the grief myself. Each person’s support was a precious gift to us.

  5. Well, you have a lot more forgiveness in you than I have in me, so I admire you for that! I think it is human nature to be tempted by the dark side throughout our lives. There are so many tempting things on that side (no wonder writers have written books about these for centuries and there are so many movies about this subject), it’s sometimes difficult to resist. As parents, it’s up to us to guide our children and make sure they choose wisely (sometimes we have to choose for them). It’s a huge responsibility as a parent to raise responsible citizens.

  6. I agree with you that we need to start at the root of the problem in order to make change. Gun control, etc. are exactly as you say, Band-Aids. I have a strong feeling that the shooter didn’t have a great relationship with his mother/father/family and who knows what went on during his childhood. While it’s so easy to lay blame, I still feel sad for him because I can’t imagine what kind of pain he must have endured in order to get to the point that he did. That has got to be some tremendous, shattering pain.

    • Laying blame is very easy…and usually never correct in situations like this. It comes down to the fact that we, as a nation, don’t want bad things to happen again like this, so we want something to fix. Sadly, the root of the problem is politically incorrect to talk about, and so is sidestepped for other issues that seem more easily controlled.

  7. You are a very loving and forgiving person, Char. The world be a beautiful place if everyone thought this way – but unfortunately anger is prevailing at the moment and the world-wide lizard seems to be eating it’s own tail.

    Everyone needs to read your words and follow your example 😉

  8. So true – I’ll keep hoping the power of love will prevail. It is hard to be kind in the face of cruelty, but the opposite response of more cruelty only adds to the cycle. I loved when you said you would feel as if you’ve truly succeeded if your kids were only kind. The world needs more parents like you.

    • That’s so true. Cruelty and revenge can make a never ending cycle that goes on for generations. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Sheila.

  9. It is easy for us in the blogging world to talk of forgiveness. Our anger is real. Our rage consumes us and our hurt is with those who lost children.

    But nothing so deep as those who lost children to that maniac. For those parents, forgiveness is a much harder concept. I struggle with it and I didn’t lose a single child in this insanity.

    Good post.

    • So true. I want to cry every time I see one of those cute children’s faces that died in this tragedy. Forgiveness isn’t for the killer though. He’s dead and won’t know either way. Forgiveness helps to heal the past so that one can move on and grow in the future (not wilt from bitterness).

  10. Char you always amaze me with your beautiful words. This is an amazing post and you hit the nail on the head…the change needs to happen in our homes. And forgiveness isn’t for the killer but for each person individually. I have held hate towards someone and it only got me grief and pain. The minute I let it go and forgave I was free. Thanks for sharing such an uplifting post.

    • You’re the one that told me Oprah’s words (I think it was from an Oprah show) about forgiveness means giving up hope that the past could be different. That really touched me and helped me think of forgiveness in a whole new light.

Comments are closed.