In an eye-opening 2018 Guardian piece titled “‘We batter them with kindness’: schools that reject super-strict values”, we read of a school for troubled children — children from broken homes, and other saddening life-environments. When the children misbehave, often in highly testing ways, the Teachers, responses “batter the children with kindness”. The Teachers practise what they term “unconditional positive regard”.
The author of the article, Josh Halliday, explains their approach quoting Professor Laura Winter — a life-philosophy that treats “every human as equal instead of “saying someone is good only if they behave a certain way, or if they fit in certain boxes….”
In an October 2017 OnBeing piece titled “How to Reach Out to Someone Who Is Struggling”, the Duke University Professor Omid Safi narrates “a story told and retold in the Middle East about how to help someone who’s drowning.”
“The story goes that a man had fallen into a river. He was not much of a swimmer and was in real danger of drowning. A crowd of concerned people wanted to rescue him. They were standing at the edge of the water, each of them urgently shouting out to him:
“Give me your hand, give me your hand!”
The man was battling the waves and ignored their urgent plea. He kept going under and was clearly struggling to take another breath.
A saintly man walked up to the scene. He too cared about the drowning man. But his approach was different. Calmly he walked up to the water, waded in up to his knees, glanced lovingly at the drowning man, and said:
“Take my hand.”
Much to everyone’s surprise, the drowning man reached out and grabbed the saint’s hand. The two came out of the dangerous water. The drowning man sat up at the edge of the water, breathing heavily, looking relieved, exhausted, and grateful.
The crowd turned towards the saint and asked in complete puzzlement: “How were you able to reach him when he didn’t heed our plea?” The saint calmly said:
“You all asked him for something, his hand. I offered him something, my hand. A drowning man is in no position to give you anything.”
Let us remember not to ask anything of someone who is drowning.”
Maria Popova gifts us this gem in one of her Marginalian posts: “It is a service to reality to see with greater charity of interpretation. It is a service to other human beings to look at them….with the eyes of love and to resist for as long as possible letting the cataract of judgment occlude our view.”