It’s easy to be kind to those who are nice to us, but what about being kind to our enemies? Why should we even try?
Being kind to those who are hurtful to us can seem very counterintuitive. After all, it’s rare that we ever feel like being nice to people who cause us pain, and it can be easy to see our kindness as rewarding them for their bad behavior. We don’t want to put ourselves into a place where we can be hurt again, and we often feel the need to defend ourselves as well. While these thoughts are natural and sometimes even necessary for our own health and well-being, they can also lead to us lashing out at others as we have been lashed out at. Defending ourselves only causes a problem when we use our injuries as justification for inflicting those same injuries on others, or when doing so causes needless conflict.
In his 2020 general conference talk titled “Love Your Enemies,” President Dallin H. Oaks said, “We move toward loving our adversaries when we avoid anger and hostility toward those with whom we disagree. It also helps if we are even willing to learn from them.” Admittedly, my reasons for being kind to those who aren’t kind to me haven’t always been the most altruistic. There’s an incredible amount of petty satisfaction that comes from going up to people who pretend you don’t exist, giving them your most cheerful greeting with a wide grin, and watching the confusion on their faces as their world stops making sense.
But ultimately, I’ve found that the greatest benefits from being kind to those who are hurtful to me show up further down the road. President Oaks’s advice matches what I’ve seen in life: understanding and showing kindness to the people who have hurt me has given me a stronger sense of empathy, has helped me learn to defuse tense situations, and has sometimes even led to people changing their views about me and the world around them. Being kind to others will not always result in positive or immediate results, but it can make a significant impact in our lives over the long run.
Source: October 2020 General Conference
—Eliza Kimball, Latter-day Saint Insights
FEATURE IMAGE BY BEN KERCKX
Find more insights
Learn more about having love and understanding for those around us in Elaine Walton’s devotional address, “Empathy and the Pure Love of Christ.”