How we deal with other people has always been a big thing at my house. At least once or twice a day the kid’s will hear something to the effect of, “Be nice to each other” or “Treat each other with kindness.” If I could open up my kids’ heads and cross-stitch this message to their brains, I would.
I think this attitude stems from my own growing up years. Not only was I a freckled redhead, at school, though I couldn’t help any of it.
One cruel word can shape the mental picture a child has of his or her self. Often it can take twenty or thirty good words to undo the damage. Looking back on those growing up years, whenever I think of the kids who teased me, I do not think of them kindly.
The wounds are still there, even if I’ve long ago forgiven them. Those same children have perhaps grown up to be wonderful adults. Unfortunately, a few bad choices on their part made a lasting impression in my mind.
The good news is the exact opposite is true as well. There are kids from my childhood who I look upon with love. True friends who didn’t care what was on the outside; they were only concerned with the good person I was on the inside.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin once wrote, “Kind words not only lift our spirits in the moment they are given, but they can linger with us over the years.”
My nine-year-old daughter, Michelle, came home from school one day and asked to talk. She had a friend, we’ll call her Ashley, who wasn’t always nice to those around her but always seemed to hang around.
“I don’t like it when she’s mean, Mom,” said Michelle. “And I can’t figure out why she tries to come around me all the time.”
“Why don’t you ask her?” I suggested.
She did. Michelle came home the very next day and asked to talk once again. Once again Ashley had been particularly clingy, and so Michelle asked Ashley why she wanted to be friends.
“Ashley said she likes me because I’m so nice,” said Michelle.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise to me though it seemed to amaze her. When I asked about her response, Michelle said she told Ashley, “I like you too. But you need to start being nicer.”
Why do we respond so eagerly to kindness? Elder Wirthlin said in his talk ‘The Virtue of Kindness’, “Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others.” When we’re being nice, we’re being like Christ. It really is as simple as that. When we use gentle words we are helping to build up his Kingdom. When we use mean words, we are tearing it down.
So now is the time to ask, “How do I want to be remembered?” Do we want to be the one who made others feel worse about themselves? Instead, let us strive daily to be counted among those whom others will look back and call a gentle, sweet, wonderful friend.