The best advice we can give and live by

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Always better to be kind than be right.

Daily, most of us take a fleeting glance at the many people we get to see in our homes, neighbourhood, while commuting, and at places where we study, work, exercise, play or have our drinks or meals.

We use smartphones to communicate with individuals or groups that may be near or far or even scattered across the globe. We scroll for news, reports, pictures and videos to watch, listen or read those we think might be useful, entertaining or to satisfy our curiosity.

We may greet those we come across, and some people like to forward ‘good morning’ wishes over social media. While parting, we may say ‘goodbye’, ‘safe trip’, ‘take care’ or ‘stay safe’.

Out of courtesy, some would utter ‘see you again’ or ‘let’s have lunch sometime’ without having any date in mind.

However, if you have but one chance to send a truly meaningful message to an individual or to people around the world, what would yours be?

It would not be heartfelt if the message were to include “Do as I say, not as I do”. Such an important piece of advice should also be our maxim we try our best to live by.

Some of the common advice given are ‘be happy’, ‘keep smiling’, ‘celebrate life’, ‘study hard’, ‘work hard’, ‘work smart’, ‘set goals’, ‘be successful’, ‘be confident’, ‘be courageous’, ‘be good’, ‘don’t worry’, ‘never give up’, ‘learn to let go’ and ‘live in the moment’.

No doubt, all are sound advice. However, they are easier said than done as challenges can be monumental. For example, happiness may be a matter of choice, but many people are unhappy, going by their behaviour or reaction. They are quick to blame others instead of introspecting.

Twelve years ago, I wrote a series of letters on courtesy and were published by several English dailies. I was then a self-styled courtesy activist, having developed the “Courteous Malaysian Workshop” and conducted training for tourism personnel in Kuala Lumpur and several cities.

I pointed out that Malaysians may have an easy-going temperament and are naturally friendly towards visitors. But they can also be rude without knowing because some of their behaviours might already be commonplace and acceptable in our society.

For example, people who live in families or communities that smoke heavily can cough repeatedly near you without attempting to cover their mouths or move away. Some even cough to comfort themselves when feeling nervous upon entering a hall with large number of people.

Globally, the Japanese are renowned for practising courtesy. Although an outward display of courtesy, such as bowing to each other respectfully, can mask inner hostilities, it can also be a springboard to good behaviour such as politeness and compassion.

Etiquette or courtesy takes time to learn, either through observation and imitation in cultures where such practices are the norm, or through training in less civilised society. Including courtesy as part of the national philosophy would not automatically make citizens courteous.

Therefore, the advice that I have chosen, which is also my maxim, is to “be kind”. This can be practised by everyone straightaway if they choose to. When we are kind to ourselves and feel happy, it will be much easier to be kind to people we meet in person and over social media.

Whatever we do or decide, we ought to remember that it may be good to be right, it is better to be kind. Arguing who is right or wrong had been the source of endless quarrels within families, among relatives, in the neighbourhood, at the workplace and the list is endless.

The motto “The customer is always right” does not mean the buyer can do no wrong as no one can always be perfect. But if the person is a valued customer, he must be treated as if he is right especially when he was in the wrong.

Usually, most people would come to their senses much later to realise that they were also in the wrong. But in the heat of an argument, even the most learned would be overcome by emotions and would fight tooth and nail just to save face.

Hence, it is always better to be kind than be right. In business, such a maxim pays rich dividends. More importantly, be kind to family members would reduce petty or unnecessary quarrels. Kindness should also be extended to relatives, co-workers, acquaintances and strangers.

Kindness is the greatest blessing one could give or receive, and people are appreciated and remembered more for their kindness than any other virtue. Yet it is within reach for all of us as it is a matter of finding it in our hearts and expressing it with our smile, voice, gesture or deeds.

My salute and eternal gratitude to all the people who have been kind to me throughout my life. Their kindness continues to reverberate whenever I pay it forward by being kind to others, including writing about the predicaments of the downtrodden.

Some years ago, my wife spent Christmas doing voluntary work in a shelter for abandoned old folk, located next to a Chinese cemetery at Jalan Dewan Bahasa in Kuala Lumpur. She noticed the water heaters have long broken down and inmates had to endure cold water baths.

I wrote about their plight and was published by three English newspapers. Within days, the shelter was swarmed with good Samaritans. The water heaters were not only replaced, but they also replenished the toiletries, items used for cleaning, canned foods and bags of rice.

A few months later, I highlighted the quandary of a shelter for old folk next to the Pudu market in Kuala Lumpur which was infested by termites. It was so bad that the whole place must be ripped apart to throw away all contents, including dilapidated wooden beds and cupboards.

But there was no budget for single deck steel beds, mattresses and metal lockers. I called on the readers to help by donating an item, which would bring much comfort for an old man in his remaining years and would be repeatedly used by others over the next few decades.

Later, I was told a kind lady showed up and arranged for all the beds needed to be supplied. She truly has a heart of gold. Likewise, we should try to be kind whenever we get the chance and help to spread kindness in whatever way we can.

Whether premeditated or randoms acts of kindness, they are all heartfelt and good for the soul. So, always remember to be kind. Moreover, there is no loss for being kind, as we gain just as much as we give. And when needed, we could also be kinder to make things even better.

The views expressed here are strictly those of The TrueNet reader YS Chan from Kuala Lumpur.