Where do you learn to be kind?

It was probably when you were really young.  A toddler.  Not wanting to share, not wanting to be nice.  It was probably your mom who told you to treat others the way you want to be treated and to be kind to everyone.  Then maybe you heard it again on Sesame Street.  Maybe you saw how well Big Bird and Snuffy got along.  Maybe you understood the deep meanings behind Aesop’s fables.  Maybe you had a religious upbringing.  Maybe they taught you a thing or two about “respect” and “tolerance” at school.

Wherever you learned it, whoever you learned it from, if you learned it early enough it probably stayed with you.  It probably formed your conscience.  It makes you think twice before you decide to be mean.  Does anyone mean to be mean?  Or does it just come naturally?  Or is it unintentional?  And if it’s unintentional, which parent didn’t do their job?  Or didn’t set a good example for their kids?

There are so many debates about this in psychological literature.  Is it nature or nurture?  Are you conditioned to be a certain way?  Is it cultural?  Is it the media?  Is it all of that violence on television and video games that makes us desensitized to it?  Causes a moral disengagement?

All of these questions but no conclusive answers.  No real consensus in the world as to why things go wrong in the way that children are raised.  If you, like me, watched Problem Child in the 90s, you know that the beginning starts with a man saying something about there being “no such thing as a bad little boy” – and then the music comes on, I think it’s ‘bad to the bone’ or something – proving that he’s wrong.  Anne Frank also said it…

I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.

Is she right in saying that?  After all of the war and bloodshed, not to mention torture that was going on during the World Wars?  We certainly don’t have world peace yet.  Some say it rests on the shoulders of young people to make a difference.  That youth can move the world.  Some say ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’

These are questions that keep me up at night, wondering.  As I research about cyberbullying, I have to question the very meaning of life.  The contextual and systemic causes of these manifestations of much deeper issues.  Then I read such articles as Small and Vorgan’s asking if the Internet is killing empathy.  The Internet, itself, is not a separate entity.  Things can be said and done on the Internet which may or may not be replicated or initiated in real life.  As well, spending long hours on the Internet may have certain physiological and psychological effects.

I’m just wondering where kids are learning to be kind, now?  Is it on TV where every show is about getting cut off or being put down (American Idol, The Bachelorette, The Bachelor, Elimidate – off the air, but still, Dancing with the stars)?  It’s sort of the survival of the fittest on every channel.  With mean being so popularized in music, movies, video games, YouTube troll comments, and by adults in general, it’s about time to re-introduce kindness into society. Otherwise, we’ll have to thank people for the slightest amounts of kindness…

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