Some people have been so harmed by the cruelty and indifference of others that they make it hard to treat them kindly. Do so anyway. These people need it more than you know and inside they are desperate for any show of kindness and dignity. They may seem angry, bitter, or unkind but their souls scream out for our loving kindness. So despite how they appear on the outside, be kind anyway. It is easy to be kind toward those who are attractive (puppies come to mind), or toward those who are kind in return. But it is much harder to practice an intentional kindness toward those who need it most – those who are argumentative, critical or judgmental, those who are homeless and disheveled or irrational, the severely mentally ill who may scare us, or those who have hurt us in the past.
Both Gandhi and Jesus address the need to be kind and loving towards those that are among the hardest to love. Gandhi said “It is not non-violence if we love merely those that love us. It is non-violence only when we love those that hate us. I know how difficult it is to follow this grand law of love. But are not all great and good things difficult to do?” Similarly Jesus tells us in Luke 6:31-35 to “Do unto others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend without expecting to get anything back.”
This is one of the great commands of all religions: Be kind and loving toward others, even toward those who are unloving – to include enemies. The great truth is that only love can overcome hate. Hate cannot overcome hate. If we respond to hate or evil with our own hate and evil, then we have only increased the amount of hate and evil in the world. Who then benefits? No one, and as Abraham Lincoln reminds us “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” So be kind and loving towards others, even the unlovable, and even those who are your enemies. For this is how we reduce hate and evil in the world and, as the Greeks wrote long ago, work “to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world”