Kindness - An Overlooked Virtue

Art Spooner
January 14, 2020
[First United member Art Spooner has provided a "guest evotional" for our consideration this week]

The headline caught my attention: “Stop Trying to Raise Successful Kids”. 

I read it again; it still said: “Stop Trying to Raise Successful Kids”.

As a parent, I am hard-wired to help my children become successful. “If I don’t start reading to them while they are young, they won’t be successful.” “If we don’t send them to a good preschool, they won’t be successful.” “If we don’t schedule them into sports and music and Scouting, they won’t be successful.” “If we don’t take them on college visits, they won’t be successful.” In this culture, telling parents to stop trying to raise successful kids is like trying to get water to run uphill (or any other metaphor about expending effort on a mission doomed to fail). 

But then I started to read the article. The authors quickly pointed out that 81 percent of children say their parents value achievement and personal happiness over caring for others. We are raising a society where our children are less likely to feel concern for people less fortunate than themselves, where our children are less likely to be bothered by seeing unfairness, where our children feel less personal responsibility to take action themselves. The article states, “If our society is fractured today, some of the blame lies with the values parents have elevated.”

The most surprising thing in the article was the correlation between kindness and success. “Boys who are rated as helpful by their kindergarten teacher earn more money 30 years later… Middle-school students who help, cooperate, and share get better grades and standardized test scores... The eighth graders with the greatest academic achievement are the ones who were rated most helpful by their third-grade teachers.”

The authors suggested several strategies to teach the key virtue of kindness. At the dinner table, ask what children and parents have done to help others. Share parents’ experiences with helping others, including the moments when we’ve failed. Talk about problems that came up during the day, and how they were addressed. Give children choices of how they can share, or how they can make new friends, or how they can help.

And then I remembered the verse from Micah chapter 6 – what God wants from us in this life is to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly in God’s presence.