Teaching kindness is an important requirement of character education and, therefore, vital to peace education. Those who want peace need to overcome intolerance and violence. Those who teach peace must teach character traits that will produce tolerance and non-violence. Kindness is one of those character traits.
How can teaching kindness overcome intolerance?
First, we must understand what tolerance is. Real tolerance is often greatly misunderstood. What is it?
True tolerance is a quality that helps us recognize and bear with another person’s differences, whatever those differences are. At the same time, tolerance makes us take action to keep ourselves from accepting and appreciating every difference that goes against our convictions.
Teaching kindness helps students understand when others need to have their differences recognized. Teaching kindness gives them incentive to meet that need – to recognize differences without giving in to them.
At the same time, teaching kindness helps young people realize that everyone has a need to have strong convictions. Everyone has a need to hold on to convictions, even those that are different from yours and mine.
Tolerance must always flow in two directions, not one. Teaching kindness involves teaching that truth.
Teaching kindness is a way to overcome violence also.
Violence occurs when one person or group wants what they do not have and decides to get it. Maybe it is money. Maybe it is more power. They may want more land. Whatever it is, they choose violence as a way to get it.
Those who are teaching kindness must help people understand the difference between wants and needs. Teaching kindness is a way to help people get what they need, but not everything they want. A good teacher will help students list needs and wants so they can understand that.
A good teacher will encourage students to exercise kindness in meeting real needs. He or she will show them that the exercise of kindness will meet needs far more quickly and peacefully than violence will.
Teaching kindness and other character traits does much to overcome intolerance and violence. Parents and others who work with young people must recognize that fact if we are to move toward peace.