Jeff Bezos recounted a story where he was taught a lesson by his grandfather. You can read the story here or watch it here but the gist of it is, he was being a clever young man when he happened to use his wit in a harmful way. His grandfathers words to him were:
“Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.”
For three days now those words have haunted me. Every now and then you read or hear something that rattles your bones or stops you dead in your tracks. Upon hearing those words, I took one of those deep sighs like when someone smacks you a good one in the thorax. My heart felt heavy and breathing slowed right down as I put myself on trial.
How often I let my intellect beat my forbearance, overcome my mercy or hold hostage my kindness only for it to be let loose like a rabid dog gnawing at someone else’s inability to retort back or playing a silly tit for tat should they be a worthy adversary.
I felt so bad for all the fights I’ve had, verbally or electronically.
It daunted upon me how rotten we are as humans, using ‘gifts’ as Jeff calls them to our detriment. Using intelligence to put someone else down, using intelligence to garner a favourable position even though it may not be honourable or imbued with integrity.
Why do we place so much emphasis on intelligence and so little on kindness? Would you rather a spouse or partner that could prove the sky is pink to you with philosophical rants ad nauseam or would you prefer a person shrouded in kindness and mercy? Is intelligence really that attractive when put in that light?
How many a husband or wife have used their intelligence to cut through the marital fabric, the carefully evolved tapestry of love between a couple that has survived the ages?
How many a daughter has spoken ill of her mother because she doesn’t fit into her social construct of what it means to be a woman, forgetting the kindness and patience her mother afforded her as she developed and was allowed the freedom to develop into the person she now arrogantly displays to the world as sophisticated and powerful?
How many a father has shattered the dreams of his son when he longed to build things with his hands when instead he was forced into a field he bore no passion towards.
The examples can pour on forever, but the take home message is, put yourself on trial and think about the things you’ve said to win an argument, to appear cool, intelligent, gather attention or rise to a position by using your intelligence and your gifts in a negative way then account yourself and make amends. Apologise, return the rights of the person, seek forgiveness, vow to change, apply yourself by the maxim of ‘Unless you have nothing good to say, then remain silent’. In the words of the noble Prophet Muhammad,
“Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.”
I’ve watched oldie a few times and I still get pleasure out of it every time.