I went to see the latest Cinderella movie last weekend and have been thinking about it ever since. As those of you have seen it know, Ella’s mothers’ dying words to her are “Have courage and be kind.” That’s the phrase that has been chasing itself around my brain for the past week. Courage is needed simply to live. After all, the list of things that can go wrong in life is endless and often it is courage that gets us up and out of our beds in the morning.
But, I don’t think that’s the meaning of this choice of words, here. I believe they are meant to be taken together. “Have courage and be kind.” It takes a certain type of courage to be kind. Ella demonstrates this courage by her unfailing ability to remain kind in the face of increasing unkindness.
This is a lesson I learned when I failed miserably at showing kindness. There was a boy in my high school band who was just one of those awkward, “spazzy”-type boys. The ones who everyone made fun of. I had never made fun of him, and I knew that he “liked” me. Not only did I know, but so did everyone else. This of course, was “social suicide”, and I knew that if I didn’t want to be put into the same category as this one “spazzy” boy, I’d have to do something. Now, to be honest, I was one of those socially awkward “nerdy” girls with glasses, who thought completing all those extra credit projects was a “cool” thing to do. So, my social cred really wouldn’t have been high to begin with. Anyway, to make a long story short, I was unkind to this boy. And, it was probably the worst thing I’ve ever done, since it was premeditated unkindness. This was the only time I was purposefully unkind. I can’t even describe how terrible this made me feel. I was guilty for weeks, until I finally got the courage up to apologize. He was graceful and accepted my apology, proving himself to be the kinder person.
This was one mistake that I hope I’ve never duplicated. I’ve tried really really hard, sometimes necessitating the biting of my tongue to continue being kind. I have often deliberately ignored nasty comments. I’ve instead perfected the art of “misunderstanding” my mother-in-law and other people, and treated rude comments as compliments instead. Thankfully this art has not been so necessary in recent years, and she is convinced I’m the kindest, sweetest daughter-in-law.
I’ve found being kind can be the most difficult thing sometimes. It has taken courage to be kind in the face of unjust criticism. Of course I’ve had nasty thoughts of my own; however I’ve managed to hold my tongue more often than I ever anticipated I could. Being kind is not a default mechanism. It takes courage to be kind in the face of unkindness. But, if we all followed the advice of “Have courage and be kind” wouldn’t the world be a better place?