I was shopping in a crafts store one afternoon when I stumbled upon a chalkboard tucked away in a back corner. It hung on the wall just above eye level. Someone, a store employee I assumed, took the time to neatly write a sentence with colored chalk. I almost didn’t stop to read it but then felt somewhat lazily compelled. It has been a few years since that day but the quote read something like this: “It is better to be kind than to be wise. And, knowing this is the beginning of wisdom.” The writer identified the saying only as “A Buddhist Proverb”.
I often return to these words and ponder what they truly mean to me. My initial reaction was to picture an intensely wise but cruel person. Perhaps his experience has made him bitter, cynical, mean to others even. While he might hold inside of himself some of life’s deepest truths, when he opens his mouth people close their ears. They don’t want to hear another insult, a condescending remark or judgment. In short, a man who is wise but not kind will waste his unshared wisdom.
Then, I think of a person who is nice but simple. She might not know much about life and relationships. She is sweet and gentle but isn’t the one to run to for personal growth or problem solving. She always has a smile or a hug to give. Listening is one of her greatest gifts. People enjoy her company and laugh with her but certainly do not rely on her guidance. Some would argue this woman possesses all of the wisdom needed in life. She is content in the moment. She is accepting rather than judgmental. She understands the value of truly hearing another person.
Though I cannot exactly picture the person this quote describes, I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with it. I do believe it is better to be kind than to be wise. I think people of the world will only find a common truth if they approach one another with respect. The wisest of all of us would joyfully step into any of our shoes just to understand a little bit more about how this whole thing works. And in turn, we would feel that empathy, and the significance of that attempt to find out what is really going on here. The kindness inherent in such an act would be unmistakable wouldn’t it? And, ultimately wise.