In the art of blogging, (which I’m still learning!), the pros say that having a provocative headline question can gain readers. Did it work? Does this headline cause you to feel a degree of pushback, especially if you are from the USA? Some may immediately disagree, wanting to say how friendly and polite the nation is, and after all, doesn’t all the world want to come to its shores?
But cruelty, whether as a nation or personally, runs in deep waters. It is not easy to see at first, and can be masked behind politeness and the continual ‘how are you’ which no one really seems to care if it is responded to. To be cruel is to knowingly and willingly inflict pain or suffering on another person. It can be done in word, deed, on the roads, on the phones, in social media. It is often done with humor, a particular specialty of the US. Just watch some of the ‘comedy shows’, and keep track of the numbers of sarcastic insults and cruel words said to a background laugh track.
Last week I posted on the importance of kindness and the awful level our political discourse has sunk to. Last night I watched a cable ‘news program’ that spent over 15 minutes going against other TV networks and hosts, by name, using a mocking and cruel tone. All the time claiming that their network was unbiased and the others were blatantly biased. I can’t remember this happening to this extent in the past.
Perhaps I’m sensitive to the area of cruelty because I have had it in my character. When I was even a young boy, I can still remember the way my friends and I treated others that we considered lesser. I’m sad to remember that often I was the ringleader. On one occasion, probably when I was about 11 years old, one of the moms of a boy we were cruel to actually called my house to talk to me. She told me how she felt about it, and it left a lasting impact.
I was cruel as a teenager at times, of course well masked by my outward friendliness. My humor has been cruel, even if only at times in intention rather than in the actual words. I remember many years later in India, at an organizational meeting. One of the leaders of the meeting (a North American) used humor to cruelly put down a woman leader of the same Christian organization. (the one I’m still with).
Some time back in my life I saw more clearly how cruel I was. I cried out to God to change me, to give me a heart of kindness and grace. I’m still learning and growing. You see, cruelty lives with competition and comparison as bedmates. (an ugly threesome). Jealousy also finds a place in the bed as well. Wanting to see our enemies put down, or outward friends that are really enemies, often involves cruel intentions. We may not act on them. Usually we don’t. But that doesn’t absolve us before the One who knows our hearts and intentions.
I fear for the future of the United States. It is not a nice nation in many areas of public life. There are many people who claim politeness, even as Christians, that have a cruelty in their nature that is not dealt with. Of course there are many good hearted people as well, as in every nation. But what really makes us think we have anything to teach other nations?
We need a revival of kindness. A revival on our roads, in our political circles, in our TV networks, in our churches. We are a cruel nation, while hiding behind a self-righteousness that is nauseating. Are we the only cruel nation on earth? Of course not. All nations, all humans, have the potential if not the actuality of cruelty lurking deep within.
The change starts with me. With you. There’s a great word called repentance. Turning away from cruelty and turning to a new heart of kindness and gentleness.
Try that on your Twitter feed.