It’s 1 am and I can’t stop thinking about my hypothetical future children.
Ok, not really. But sort of? Allow me to explain. It all started with this question:
Would you rather have a child that is resiliently kind but incorrigibly slow? Or a child who’s deeply intelligent but incorrigibly cruel?
The intelligent child will most likely excel academically where other children struggle. They might be clever and quick-witted which will lead them down a bright path of monetary wealth and career-related success and who doesn’t want that for their future children? However, a lack of compassion as well as a shrewd and cold personality might also result in a series of shallow and meaningless relationships throughout their lives. They may never know true love because they don’t truly know how to love, themselves.
On the other hand, the “slow” child may live a considerably more difficult life. They will be fooled, manipulated, bullied and belittled. By societal standards, they may only ever merely get by. Existing only in the average, an anonymous water boy in a sea of valedictorians. But this child is also born with something you can’t possibly learn in a book. They go into the world never hardened by all of life’s disappointments. They continue to laugh and smile and share true joy with those around them. To the naked judgmental eye, they may never go anywhere in this life, but yet, you feel their goodness inside of you regardless of where you are. And don’t we all want our children to be so joyful?
I struggled not because I am honestly considering my future hypothetical children (can’t put enough LOLs here) but because when I flip the mirror back on myself, who would I personally rather be? And if I had to choose, in the broad spectrum of each individual trait, what’s of greater use in this world to the next generation? What’s more important to living well?
I guess it comes down to your definition of what living well entails.
It’s been said, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. I personally think the same can be applied to kindness. What good is surrounding yourself with brilliant people if they don’t portray an ounce of moral clarity? And what does that say about yourself?
I love a stimulating intellectual conversation with a total stranger. It’s interesting to me to hear how others think. From where their opinions stem. How it can mold and enhance my own thoughts and ideas on the world. But even more than that, I love seeing selflessness from someone I don’t know. I’d rather see more simple random acts of kindness in this world than people talking intelligent theoretical philosophical smack at each other about why their opinions are correct.
I saw this documentary about series of individuals in one neighborhood in Houston, Texas. One particular segment was about a mother and her son, a disabled grown man. Despite the majority of the story line suggesting that this man’s life was generally filled with a simple happiness most of us will never know, there was one scene that really stuck with me. His mom was telling the camera that he’s aware that he doesn’t mentally move as fast as others. She spoke of a time in his frustration, where he balled up his fists and squinted his eyes and started to belly cry. “My life hard,” he sobbed.
I consider myself an intelligent person. I also think there is an infinite amount of education in the world for me to continue to learn for the rest of my life. But I believe kindness is something you can choose regardless of intellectual capacity. It doesn’t make one naive or idiotic or simple or stupid, to be kind. It doesn’t make me inexperienced and uneducated, if I choose to be good. My kindness is a conscious choice not a naive uneducated delusion.
I wanted to go find this man and tell him that. I wanted to tell him it is more important to have an altruistic heart, than a brilliant mind. That no amount of reading about love can make you feel it for yourself. What good is intelligence if you don’t have the compassion to guide it?
In 2016, I’d like to be a better version of myself. Wouldn’t we all in some capacity? Richer. Smarter. Skinnier. Stronger. I’d be lying if I said I don’t wish for a little of all of that as well. Life would be a little easier if we were all a little better. Life is hard because we aren’t. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.
But happiness and kindness isn’t something you have to build up to attain. It’s a choice. Something you can do immediately. Someone you can be immediately. You can be a better person right now. A kinder person. A happier person. A person who chooses joy even if all the intelligent experience tells you to harden up and barrel on.
If I had to choose between being the kindest or the smartest person in the room, I want to be the kindest.