‘Have Courage and Be Kind’ was one of the main lines in the 2015 live action version of Cinderella. Mostly, I really didn’t enjoy the film – it seemed to me to be Cinderella at its worst, indulging all the saccharine elements without anything that makes it interesting. That line is something I’m trying to keep very much in mind at the moment though, so it seems as good a place as any to start.
I think being kind and courageous is a much more radical proposal than it often seems. At the risk of being someone who tries to turn everything into a Harry Potter reference (and with apologies to people who haven’t read the books or seen the films!), thinking about the respective roles of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff houses has been something I’ve been doing a bit of over the last day – partly because I saw a friend yesterday (Wednesday) who is a Gryffindor but lots of people think she’s a Hufflepuff. We both agreed that we aspire to be Hufflepuffs but aren’t – I’m too much of a Ravenclaw and she’s a Gryffindor.(it’s okay, I know Harry Potter and Hogwarts aren’t *actually* real!)
Being kind is often mistaken for being a pushover, but I don’t think that’s really kindness. Being kind has to include being kind to yourself as well as to others. I also don’t think it’s the same thing as pity – I don’t think feeling pity is necessarily kind at all, because it implies a hierarchy. That’s not to say it’s always bad, or that good things can’t come out of it – just that I don’t think it’s particularly kind. Kindness often gets mistaken or confused with ‘niceness’ when it isn’t really the same thing. I remember one of my primary school teachers who hated the word nice, because she said it didn’t mean anything. I see where she was coming from! It seems to be far kinder (and far more difficult, sometimes) to call people out on mistakes. Kind doesn’t always mean nice – I think it is far more loving and recognises the humanity of others far better than any amount of being nice could do.
Courage, too, is often seen as fearlessness – and to return to Harry Potter for a moment, this is one of the reasons why Neville Longbottom is one of my favourite characters of the teenagers. In the first book, Dumbledore says something along the lines of ‘it takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends’. I also think Luna is one of the most courageous characters in the series – courage isn’t about being brave, and not having or acknowledging fears, but sometimes it is having the ability to admit that you are afraid.
What seems like a very trite phrase, ‘have courage and be kind’, has a lot more nuance to me than it did in the film – and I do think that key to this is the reminder to be kind to ourselves as well as to others. Kindness isn’t all about self sacrifice – which may seem like an odd thing to say during Lent, when so much is focused on self sacrifice, both liturgically and in the secular world (not that I necessarily think that it is always so easy to separate those out). There can be so much focus on self improvement that we can forget that actually, we’re mostly doing okay.