I Spoke With 2 Religious Leaders About Kindness. Here’s What I Learned.
In today’s controversial world, kindness seems like a vague and ineffective sentiment.
It’s no secret the political climate has become increasingly hostile and divided since the 2016 presidential election. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, even casual conversations can become heated.
Meet Imam Talib Shareef, President of Nation's Mosque, Masjid Muhammad
Since retiring from the Air Force in 2010, where he served for 30 years in six military campaigns as Grand Master Sergeant, Imam Shareef has dedicated his life to advocating for peace, both locally and internationally. Imam Shareef has been the recipient of many honors and awards for his outreach efforts, including being commended by former President Barrack Obama at the White House Iftar in 2011, as well as receiving the highest Royal Medal and honor by the Kingdom of Morocco for his interfaith outreach and leadership in 2015. He also served as the first Imam to participate as a speaker at former President George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service Faith Summit.
“We don’t come here hating, that’s a learned behavior”
It’s Shareef’s belief we come into this world with love, only later do we learn to hate. “Nobody is born a criminal, nobody is born hating, but we are born with a sense of love,” he says. Bringing to mind how our first months as a child are dependent on the love and care, regardless of race or nationality.
“To hold, to be close, to have love, to be by the heart, that is the foundation of life”
Evidently, when Imam Shareef first adopted his three foster sons, they weren’t used to being told “no,” and they would throw tantrums. He describes how he and his wife would simply hold them close, and they would calm down. “When we all come here, we come here attached to a person. No one is born in a vacuum. Our survival is dependent on care, love, and concern,” he says.
Meet Rabbi Hannah Goldstein of Temple Sinai
Rabbi Hannah Goldstein says ordination was something she was drawn to from a young age. Though it wasn’t until her teenage years when she found she could make Judaism her own. But faith fell to the wayside as she attended high school and college. It wasn’t until she found herself studying abroad in Scotland that she truly missed the Jewish community, and applied to rabbinical school the following year. She received her Masters in Religious Education in 2011 and was ordained in 2013. She currently serves at Temple Sinai.
“Kindness means giving people the benefit of the doubt, not asking someone to earn your trust or respect, but giving it to them without qualification.”
Rabbi Goldstein says that in the Book of Genesis, humans are created in the image of God. Though, she admits, even if you don’t read the bible this can be taken to mean that everybody is unique and has their own spark. Therefore, deserving to be treated with kindness and dignity.
“Kindness is a practice. If we want to be kinder than we have to start paying attention.”
Self-awareness is key to being kind, Rabbi Goldstein explains. Sometimes we may be unkind without realizing it, and it can be easier to pin the blame on others rather than ourselves. It’s important to recognize our bad habits and work on bettering ourselves, which in turn will reflect on others.
The best way to spread kindness starts with yourself. Rabbi Goldstein retold the 19th-century tale of Rabbi Israel Salanter, who wanted to change the world, his town, and his family, but found that he could not. Because he realized, he first must change himself.
Photo via Stock Snap / Blake Bronstad