Founding Fathers on Kindness

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is quoted as saying: “Hard times have a way of teaching us lessons that we refuse to learn in good times. That is the one university we all get to attend—tuition free.”

I have learned to be nice to everyone. You don’t really know what others are going through at any particular time. Someone may cut you off in traffic because they must get to the hospital in time. Someone may be a little short with you because they are late for an urgent meeting or date or happening. You never really know. It’s just better to be nice and let little things go.

George Washington took it a step further. He wrote as one of his maxims: “Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in publick or in private; presently or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Shew no Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness.” (“Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation,” number 45, Mount Vernon Ladies Association, 1989).

In other words be nice to everyone, especially in public. If you need to reprove someone, do it with gentleness, kindness, and love unfeigned.

As I taught my children: “Be nice, be kind, be sweet, be gentle.” They seem to have learned that, and even repeat it to their own children!

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