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being kind

Better Kind Than Right

A Preacher I Much Admire

The Rev. Lissa Smith, an Episcopal priest and one of my favorite people, coined a felicitous phrase in a recent sermon: It is easier to be right than to be kind. This is wisdom for the next iteration, whatever one’s age.

The Prodigal Son

Lissa’s sermon was based on the parable of the prodigal son. The story is familiar to Christian churchgoers.

A man has two sons. The younger son asks for and receives his inheritance early, goes abroad, and squanders his fortune. The dutiful older son responsibly stays home, and does his father’s will.

ps1The prodigal son, on hard times and out of resources, returns home. Hearing of this, the father rushes to great the son, slaughters the fatted calf and puts on a celebration.

The older son is miffed. He approaches his father, complaining that he stayed home and obeyed all the rules, yet there was no feast for him. He rails against the injustice of his father embracing the prodigal son.

How Parables Work

Parables don’t have one fixed meaning. They are intended to engage us and challenge us. The meaning of the parable will differ person to person.

Lissa’s deep insight, which rings true for me as well, is that it is much easier to be right than to be kind. The older brother has a good case; he stayed home and did as he was told. His brother squandered his fortune in dissolute living.

It would have been right, in some calculus, for the family to shun the prodigal son upon his return. But it wouldn’t have been kind. Being kind was harder.

Lady Mary

A similar dynamic is at work with Lady Mary and her sister Edith of Downton Abbey. Mary cannot abide that Edith might find happiness. Mary relishes in self-satisfaction and being right, even at the cost of cruelty towards her sister. To be kind is, for Mary and for many of us, much harder.

The series is over now, so no harm in saying Mary finally comes around to kindness for Edith.

Me Too

Like Mary and the older son, I too often find it easier to be right than kind. Being right, you retain power and authority.

Being kind requires vulnerability and compassion.

In my next iteration, I’d like to work hard at being kind rather than right.

A New Series

If you enjoy this post, you may want to read the first article in this new series, The Next Iteration.

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