The duality of Toughness and Kindness

I’ve been thinking about the importance of resilience. As a father of a four year old, it’s impressive to watch his ability to manage adversity improve over time. Nevertheless, we still deal with plenty of moments where he wilts at my choice of words. Sometimes it’s on me to take greater care with the what and the how of my speech. Most times it’s on him, as he matures, to simply let it go.

But he’s four so I’ll give him a pass. As we grow into adults a grey area builds around toughness, kindness and their duality in modern life. As I wrote in a recent flash fiction tweet, we should all strive to be kind in our day to day dealing with others. But you can’t guarantee others will extend that same kindness to you. For this reason, and for the simple fact that life is filled with adversity, “we gotta be tough”.

I liken it to the governing values of martial arts. Karate for instance, is guided by the following principles:


· To strive for the perfection of character
· To follow the paths of truth
· To foster a spirit of effort
· To honor the principles of etiquette
· To guard against impetuous courage

These ideals represent the importance of integrity, honesty, strength, kindness and toughness.

Unfortunatley political polarization is channeling the duality of kindness and toughness into an us versus them situation; a representation of the left and the right, of snowflakes and bigots.

For those on the Right, Kindness could be viewed as weakness in the form of virtue signalling. The importance of being kind is seen as an impediment to speaking one’s mind. “They want to police the words we say and strip us of our freedom.”

On the left, Toughness could be viewed as weakness in the form toxic masculinity. Espousing the importance of toughness is used as an excuse to treat others badly. “They call us snowflakes to cover up the fact they don’t want to stop being an ignorant asshole.”

In my opinion, it takes significant strength and self-control to be kind, particularly in the face of adversity. Anger is easy.

It also takes significant strength and self-control to ignore the barbs of angry, petty people and prevent them from putting you into a negative emotional state. Despair is easy.

We should strive to be kind, aspite to be tough, but forgive ourselves and others when we are not. In doing so, we will have the toughness to carry some of the heavy burden of the world and the kindness to brighten it for others along our path to self improvement. And isn’t a world where everyone does their best ot live up to that mantra the type of world where we want to spend the rest of our days.

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