Which is Better: Kind Or Clever?


In January, I attended the wedding of a young friend. One of the guests was in charge of making a video during the reception. She took her hand-held camera from table to table, asking questions, eliciting cheers, recording everything.

When she came to our table, I was entirely unprepared. The first thing she asked was: “What advice do you have for the bride and groom?”

Without thinking, I said, “Be kind.”

I don’t usually give advice because I hate it when people tell me what to do. It felt unnatural, and later I wondered if I should have said anything at all. Then I realized what great advice it is, and how universally it applies.

Be kind.

It’s what I say to myself if someone cuts me off in traffic.

What I would say to a young child angry with a sibling or a friend.

What I tell a friend who is angry with herself for missing an important appointment.

What I would tell all the candidates running for president if I could.

Be kind.

When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. —Abraham Joshua Heschel, rabbi and professor

I grew up believing it was important to be smart, and even better to be clever, but my understanding has changed.

We need smart. We have lots of challenges to overcome if everyone on our tiny planet is to live comfortable, healthy, safe lives. Fortunately, there are plenty of smart people in the world doing great things with their cleverness. But smart alone is not enough. Intelligence without compassion is in danger of creating more problems than it solves, of destroying as it tries to create.

We need kindess, too. Sometimes, it feels like kindness is harder to come by, especially in a world with social media storms filled with anger and hate. The more polarized the country becomes, the less chance smart has to fix things. Without applying some kindness first, how can we expect anyone to listen to our point of view?

Today, I will do my best to be kind.

To myself. To others. To everyone.

Be kind. Change the world.

11 thoughts on “Which is Better: Kind Or Clever?”

  1. Someone asked me today what virtue I valued the most. Three people ahead of me said honesty. I said kindness. To be kind can be the hardest course of action, especially when someone has hurt you over and over. There is a type of meaness in the world that sneers at kindness and calls it weak and ineffectual. I like to think that kindness baffles the mean. They don’t know how much strength a deliberately kind person is exhibiting. Thanks for another thought provoking essay, Kit.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Josie. Honesty is important, but so much damage is done with the justification that the person speaking is “just being honest”. Better I think to be kind and keep one’s mouth shut. So like you, I think kindness trumps honesty.

  2. Well, I think the cleverest ship has sailed for me.
    But there’s still kindness. I am working on that one.
    Lovely post. Best advice you could have given. It’s better than that “never go to bed angry one” or “happy wife happy life”.
    If everyone, presidential candidates included especially, just gave of themselves, a little more kindness we would all be better off.
    I personally like that old line we used to hear when renting videos: be kind, rewind.

      1. I just wrote a post about this subject in particular. I’m Canadian, but I thought it needed saying. It can’t be said enough.

  3. It is sometimes difficult to be kind, but kindness is definitely what we should strive for. Although compassion itself is not the same as kindness, a little kindness goes a very long way.
    Thanks, Kit – and what fantastic advice for newlyweds!

    1. I feel like kindness is required to achieve compassion. It opens the door by helping us to realign our emotions, to see someone we might consider “other” or “unworthy” as someone we may have something in common with us, to discover that they deserve to be heard and treated as an equal. For me, kindness and compassion are inextricably linked.

  4. Hi. I just read your blog on kindness. Thanking for bringing that salient point to light. I will remember it when I need it which is really all the time. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for reading my post and taking it seriously! Wishing you all the best, including floods of kindness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 1 MB. You can upload: image. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.