Practicing intentional kindness means we are slow to judge others and quick to ignore minor flaws in them. Intentional kindness means we are accepting of where others are in life. We must become more gracious and accepting of others around us who, after all, are frail and flawed humans just like ourselves. To help me with this I have what I call my “Number One Rule”:

My #1 rule is to never criticize another individual personally. For if we hold that humans are created by God and I criticize another human being- I am in effect criticizing God’s handiwork. I’m saying that I know better than God. How arrogant that would be! So I seek to focus on what is good in other people and how I can be kind and gracious toward them rather than saying anything negative. I am not suggesting that constructive criticism is bad – there is a time and a place for that. I am speaking here of criticizing another personally, such as spreading gossip or complaining that someone is lazy (even if it is true), or questioning another’s motive. My #1 rule effectively prevents me from saying anything negative about another person; and speaking ill of another is not only unkind but accomplishes nothing positive. The only thing badmouthing another person does is to make the speaker look petty, mean and cruel; and no one trust people who go around badmouthing others. Indeed, making negative statements about others is the antithesis of grace and kindness. We simply cannot be kind and loving toward others while speaking ill of them. Bad mouthing others harms our witness as members of our faith and harms our witness as evangelist for kindness and grace. Besides, nothing good comes from focusing on others faults. Instead, find the good in others and see the potential for them becoming a better person – and then nurture that. Help one another become even better.

Now I do make a single exception to my #1 rule: politicians and other persons in the public eye. It is ok to criticize politicians (or celebrities) behavior and speeches – but note that this is not the same thing as attacking the politician or celebrity personally. For example, one can constructively criticize the president’s policies without criticizing the president personally – doing this elevates public discourse and helps reduce the level of hyper-partisanship that is harmful to both our nation’s unity as well as to our ability to work together for the common good.

Ron Hill