When there is no truth, there is no kindness.
— Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
These days I often wonder: Why can not one political party in the United States ever seem to give hopeful speeches? Their speeches and rallies paint a picture of doom and gloom, devoid of optimism and full of tactics meant to scare people, mainly white people.
Recently, I saw an image of the above quote on the Sefaria Project’s Instagram account. The text is from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, a 19th-century Hasidic rabbi. After seeing the quote, I realized that their lack of kindness, compassion, and doom-and-gloom outlook might stem from an absence of truth in their assertions about our society. The quote suggests that truth and kindness are deeply interconnected, and one cannot truly exist without the other. In this context, we can see truth as honesty or authenticity, while kindness implies thoughtful consideration and care for others.
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This quote is a powerful statement about the importance of truth and kindness in our lives. It suggests that truthfulness is a precursor to kindness. Without truth, we cannot genuinely understand or know each other, making it challenging to express genuine kindness. Truth is essential for kindness because it allows us to see others as they are.
The more I look at this text, it suggests, at least to me, that truth is the foundation of kindness. This could mean that genuine kindness can only stem from an honest place. Without truth, actions that seem kind might be deceptive or manipulative, thus not genuinely kind. Genuine kindness is sincere, and sincerity requires honesty and truth.
Kindness reflects truth. Being kind to others signal our belief in their inherent value and worth. It also highlights our conviction in the importance of compassion and justice. Kindness is also essential for truth because it allows us to be open to new ideas and perspectives. When we are kind to others, we are more likely to listen to them and try to understand their point of view. When we are truthful, we accept others as they are without trying to manipulate or control them, which is kindness. In this way, being truthful is an act of kindness.
Being kind to others signal our belief in their inherent value and worth.
Negativity and pessimism have surged among those leaning politically right-of-center. It is evident to me in some political speeches. These politicians often depict the country as declining. They emphasize issues like immigration, terrorism, and the erosion of traditional values, focusing more on problems and less on solutions. And when they offer solutions, it’s for control: Control of women’s (and those with a uterus) bodies, and voter laws to restrict access so they can stay in power.
Their rhetoric has severe implications. Their fear-mongering aims to frighten predominantly white voters into supporting them, leading to widespread anxiety, fear, anger, and, sadly, sometimes, violence.
Drawing from the wisdom of Nachman of Breslov, when we focus on the truth, there is kindness, and we can show compassion and love. We should concentrate on the goodness in people and work collectively to build a better world.
Rabbi Sandra Lawson is the Inaugural Director of Racial Diversity Equity and Inclusion at Reconstructing Judaism. The 2018 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College is known for tackling hard questions surrounding Jews and race. In 2020, the Forward named Lawson to its “Forward 50,” proclaiming her a “truth-teller,” and the Center for American Progress named Lawson to its list of Faith Leaders to Watch in 2022. Lawson also holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in sociology. She lives in North Carolina with her wife Susan and three “fur babies”: Izzy, Bridget, and Simon.