"Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you're scared to death." - Harold Wilson
Question #92857 posted on 01/21/2020 6:31 a.m.
Q:

Friends,

In the 2017 movie Wonder, the teacher writes on the board and teaches the class “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind." I really enjoyed every part of this movie, except for this part. I think it is important to fight for what is right and true over being kind to someone. If someone is offended by what is right, then that is their problem. However, that doesn't mean there isn't a tactful way to be right. I believe in being nice to people. But I think this teacher is wrong for teaching the children to be care more about kindness than what is right.

I want to hear your thought about this quote. Am I looking at it wrong? Or is the quote really about caring more about people's feelings than what is right?

Sincerely,
Willing to have my mind changed

A:

Dear Willing,

I think the quote is good in certain contexts, but not in others. For the context of people needing to be "right", I think the quote is true. You know, when a person only cares about acknowledgement in an argument and pays no attention to anybody else's feelings. Does it really matter if you're right about your aunt wearing a green sweater to the Christmas party instead of a red one? Is it really something you need to make a huge deal over being "right" about the color? No. Be kind and polite instead.

However, in the kind of context you describe in your question, I agree that people should prioritize rightness over kindness. It is important to be as kind as possible in every situation (which you recognize), but I think that maintaining your moral compass is more important. Of course, as the writers below emphasize, it's unlikely you'll ever have to choose between being right and being kind. However, even if you can apply both of them, I still think it's good to note which one you value more. 

Even when not faced with the choice of being kind or being right, I don't think we should necessarily always choose to be kind. For example, if a guy were to physically attack me, I would not worry about being kind to him; I would worry about fighting back and escaping.

People's feelings are extremely, incredibly important, but I think there are things/ideals even more important.

~Anathema

A:

Dear you,

I don't think there's a right way to look at the quote. How's that for an answer?

No, but seriously. I think your interpretation is fair, but I can also be persuaded by someone who argues the opposite of you. Perhaps I'm a religious zealot, but my first thought was "What would Jesus' answer be?" While it's a fascinating question to ruminate on, I don't know if I have the authority to tell you what Jesus would say because I believe Jesus can and has talked for Himself. But I do have some examples that might be worth thinking about:

  1. Matthew 14:22-32 - This is the story of Jesus walking on the water and inviting Peter to walk on the water. As the story goes, Peter begins to sink and asks for Jesus to save him. The scriptures then say "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Jesus was first kind by grabbing hold of Peter but he was also right that it was Peter's faith that made him sink.
  2. John 15-17 - Jesus asks Peter three times "lovest thou me?". I see this as Jesus being kind to Peter and instead of saying, "Hey I know you like being with me, but you're not really doing your job," Jesus lets Peter figure out what he needs to be doing better by himself. 
  3. John 8:1-11 - I turn to this scriptural account often. It's when Jesus is confronted by people who had taken him a woman caught in adultery. The people were right. The Mosaic law did allow that such should be stoned, but that's not what Jesus decided to emphasize. Rather he helped everyone around him realize that they were all sinners and therefore shouldn't condemn someone else for sinning. This is probably one of the best stories of choosing to be kind over choosing to be right: "When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." That is a very powerful story to me.

Of course, there are many other examples. I don't have time right now to go through the New Testament to recount all the times that Jesus chose kindness over being right, and vice versa. You could also say, "Well, Sunday Night Banter, aren't you cherry picking some verses in the New Testament? What about stories like when Jesus got super angry at the money changers at the temple?" To that, I would say: touché.

My intent is not to say Jesus never stood for what is right. He certainly stood for what is right and made distinctions between right and wrong. However, I do think His ministry was more about love, compassion, grace, and mercy than it was always being right. And I'll admit that I could be misunderstanding Jesus' ministry, but I've found great insights from understanding His ministry the way I currently do.

Here's another modern day example. Let's say you're having a discussion with someone who is lesbian, gay, transgender, queer or otherwise. In this conversation, they ask "I've heard that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is strongly opposed to the LGBTQ community and they preach that I am living in sin and am distorting God's truths, is that right?"

How would you respond to that question? Certainly there are many potential responses, and I don't know if there is one correct response, but, for simplicity's sake, I wanted to highlight the difference between being right and being kind.

The "being right" response (in my opinion) would be something like "Well, yes, we do believe that gender is eternal and that God has ordained marriage between one man and one woman. Anything contrary to that would be sinful. God has a plan for our happiness..." The statement would be considered correct, according to the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ. However, it comes across as "Yeah, you're doing something wrong. We're better than you because we follow God and you aren't doing that."

The "being kind" response (in my opinion) would be something like "That's a great question. While I don't understand everything about God and genders/sexuality, I know God loves all of His children. He's going to do everything to save each of us. We're all sinners, and we all need God's grace and mercy. There's certainly a place for you in Christ's Church." This statement is still correct, according to the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ, but it comes across as I'm no better than you, even if I don't live the way you do. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in many situations being right and being kind isn't an "or" choice. It can be, and often times is, an "and" choice. You can choose to be kind and be right at the same time. However, if there is a situation where you can only be right or be kind, I would lean towards being kind. I think that's the RIGHT thing to do. Don't worry, I haven't always been a subscriber to this mentality. When I was serving my mission I would constantly tell missionaries how they were breaking missionary rules and how they should live better. I was certainly being right. I had the scriptures, missionary handbook, and Mission President quotes to back me up. But the missionaries resented me for it. They didn't need someone to tell them they weren't being obedient. They didn't need someone to effectively say "I'm more righteous than you, and you need to live better". No, they needed someone to sympathize with how difficult it is to serve a mission and to follow all of the rules. They needed someone to get to know who they really were and why they decided to serve a mission. They needed to feel loved and they needed to know that they were a higher priority than the rules or the doctrine.

Based on my previous experience, I believe that being kind is more important than being right.

-Sunday Night Banter

P.S. The quote talks about being right. However, in your question you say: "I think it is important to fight for what is right"; "If someone is offended by what is right"; "But I think this teacher is wrong for teaching the children to be care more about kindness than what is right."

While this may seem like an insignificant difference, I think it's very significant. I don't think the teacher was trying to teach them that being kind is always more important than right or wrong. I think the teacher was trying to help his class understand that being right isn't as important as being kind. In one of my classes at BYU I was taught the difference between "I am right" and "This is right". The first is saying that you are the thing that is right (i.e. being right). The latter is saying that something is right (i.e. what is right). I think that's an important distinction that frequently gets overlooked in society and contributes to some of the current social and political divisiveness. 

A:

Dear thinking,

The other writers have answered this question fantastically already, but I hope you'll forgive me for butting in because this is one of the most formative lessons I've had to learn in my life and I can't pass up another opportunity to pontificate on it. Sorry.

Whether or not you agree with this quotation, as we can see from the variety of answers here, depends really on what it means to "choose between" being right versus being kind. In truth, I think situations which require you to choose one at the expense of the other are quite rare. Like Guesthouse, I feel that the best possible thing to do is to be kind, and that there are very, very few situations where being right is worth sacrificing kindness.

I was tremendously arrogant and stuck-up as a missionary. I was certain that I knew the scriptures better than my fellow missionaries, that I had a better, more developed understanding of the gospel, that I understood how to proselyte not just in a devotional sense but also a practical one, and so on. District or zone meetings where the trainings relied on unsophisticated prooftexts or where personal commitments required us to engage in obviously ineffective proselytizing techniques (i.e., invite cold contacts to be baptized on the street before even introducing yourselves, as some kind of "show of faith") drove me absolutely insane.

My resentment toward my mission experience festered and grew until I realized at about 16 months in that I was absolutely miserable. I woke up one morning with a realization in my mind, clear as day, that all that mattered was the earnest sincerity of the missionaries I worked with, and that being kind was a million times more important than being right. It really didn't matter that I had a better knowledge of genre in scripture or the textual history of the Hebrew Bible or the translation difficulties raised by the incredibly esoteric and opaque source text of the book of Job. It may well have been true that my zone leader used a scripture to prove a point completely ignorant of its proper context--but what good did knowing the original context do for me? None at all. I was miserable and I hated it. When I learned to allow others to do the best that they could and to be kind even when correction was necessary, I became much happier.

There were times when being right was beneficial. When I was in a trio and the three of us struggled to read through the Isaiah chapters of 2 Nephi with a family that spoke only the most functional English, I was able to correct my companions when they offered chapter and verse summaries that were wildly off-base and more harmful to understanding of the text than helpful. But the need to be right? The need to win every single conflict over whether something was correct or not? That did nothing but make me utterly miserable, and I regret that it took me so long to see that.

Likewise, there are times when being right is important, even critical. You can't teach someone something if you're too kind to correct them when misconceptions arise. But being right almost never requires us to be mean, tactless, or actively unkind. It's critical to maintain, for instance, your own moral standards. But nothing about living your moral standards requires you to sacrifice kindness for rightness. You don't need to be holier-than-thou about abstaining from alcohol or tea or coffee. You can share your religious and spiritual convictions with someone without tearing them down or making them feel as though they're sinful, apostate, or less than you yourself are in God's eyes. It's important for us to be right, but it's equally important (and I would argue in the small things more important) for us to be kind. This is how I read Matthew 10:16, wherein Jesus charges the Twelve to be wise as serpents and yet harmless as doves. Our shrewdness, our knowledge, and our conviction must be firm. We should be clear and forthright about what we believe. But we must never be cruel, mean, or unkind. A genuine love for others ought to temper everything we say and do--and I note that so-called "tough love" was a method only very rarely employed by the Savior in His personal interactions with others.

As always, ultimately context will decide what the best response is. But I am firmly of the opinion that even when conflict arises, our obligation to be right (morally or otherwise) should always be tempered by genuine kindness.

Genuinely,

9S

A:

Dear friend, 

While I, too, feel it is important to stand up for what is right, I think the paradox here is that the most right thing is to be kind. 

This is a paradox I encounter often. If the BEST possible thing is for me to be kind and loving, and encourage others to also be kind through both word and deed, how do I deal with that when I encounter people who are unkind? Sometimes those people don't listen to nice words. Sometimes people just want to fight. Sometimes people just want to be MEAN! And in that case, wouldn't it make sense for me to correct them? Honestly, probably not. Because those people probably don't want to listen. 

I think of the D&C scripture.... "reproving betimes with sharpness." Sure, there are a few - a FEW - instances where being right may triumph, where a course correction is in order. But then, recall that the immediate thing that should follow is "an increase of love." See, even when you must stand for the right, you are instructed to be extra kind after. And, being right and standing for right DOES NOT mean that you have to stop being kind, even in the very instance when you are being "right." 

Also, being right can be tricky. There are few instances in life that are purely black and white. Be careful that in seeking to always be right you forget to appreciate nuance and the significance of the other side. If we are trying to be Christlike, I think the most important thing is charity. God's love is infinite and unchanging. Even when we are chastised, God does it with love and kindness. 

Therefore, I think that the quote stands true. When you have the option, you should choose to be kind first. Even when you have to be right, you should still try to be right while being kind. Most of the time, being right while being too harsh only perpetuates the problem, and rarely results in the opposite party listening to your opinion. Of course, none of us is perfect at that, and the point is that we keep trying to be better, kinder, and more understanding. 

"Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved." - Thomas S. Monson

Cheers, 

Guesthouse