What’s More Important Than Cleverness?

Last week we had a very happy day when our daughter graduated from the University of Auckland.  This young woman has never been to school and never sat an exam before the age of 20.  She loved studying and she did so well in her course that she was offered post-graduate study. 

There were a lot of happy moments on her special day and you may even have seen a few photos on Facebook.  But I want to tell you about one part of the day that I have been mulling over during the week.  It was the address given by an alumnus who graduated 52 years ago.  He has had a distinguished career in law, and he had pearls of wisdom for the young graduates. 

Responsibility to Use Knowledge

He talked about the responsibility to use knowledge that has been passed on to you. And to use that knowledge to the best advantage of the community in which you live and work. And he shared some lessons that he said he had learnt in his 52-year career.

Lifelong Learning

He said learning is an on-going process and should continue for the rest of your life.  I was delighted when he said this, because as homeschooling parents, the thing we want to give our children is a life-long love of learning.

True Happiness

He said that true happiness comes from helping others.  He asked the graduates to always spare time to listen to others and be responsive to their needs. And he told them that they would be surprised to find how often, later in life, something that had seemed a small thing done for others had turned out to have been very important in the other person’s life. He encouraged the young people to realise that what they say and do can have a very real impact on the future of other people. This is so valuable because how often do we feel helpless and unable to make a change?  This wise older man told us that little things make big changes.

Kindness is a Choice

He then said something that keeps ringing in my ears. I was challenged and encouraged. He said, ‘It’s harder to be kind than clever.’ I really liked this, because it’s so true but it’s a little known or else completely ignored truth. He said, cleverness is a gift but kindness is a choice.

And then another pearl: ‘In the end we are our choices.’  This is true.  Have you ever noticed that as people get older they become more of what they are?  They become kinder or sadder or meaner or happier? 

So what will you teach your child today?  You will most probably have some time set aside for maths, writing, maybe reading, and possibly any of a dozen other activities.  But what about kindness?  That lesson comes from the way we speak of our neighbours, our extended family, our politicians and those who think or believe differently from us.  It’s the way we speak to our Significant Other, and the way we speak to our children when nobody else is listening.

In the end, we are our choices.  And kindness is a choice. Let’s ‘teach’ kindness today. Let’s ‘be’ kindness today.

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What’s More Important Than Cleverness? — 13 Comments

  1. This is fantastic advice…As of this week we are introducing a new subject into our curriculum…It is the subject of kindness and each week we will do a project for 1 person in our community that we think needs a bit of kindness shown to them. This week we will bake a cake for our neighbour! Next week we will be a visit to a lovely 82 yr old from church who has no family. It may not be much but it will be a start to teaching our kids to show kindness.

  2. Hi, I’m Suzy’s daughter, Georgia and I’m in Year 12. Thanks, for this very encouraging article, I find being kind something hard to do, mainly with my siblings as opposed to those outside the family.

    What nuggets of wisdom we can learn from older, more experienced people!

    I met Celia at your house once, though she probably won’t remember me give her my congratulations – I thought she was really cool!



  3. We have just had this very discussion, about being kind to each other, in the car on the way home from swimming. I had two rather tired and snippity girls in the back seat … lol Thanks for sharing. I simply love that quote “cleverness is a gift but kindness is a choice”.

  4. Such a great achievement to graduate! My congratulations to Celia! It is encouraging to note that she had never sat an exam until she was 20. Thank you for sharing such wise words with us from a man with real life experience. Very inspiring!

  5. Hi Diane, Yes, a little kindness goes a long way. I like the way this man encouraged the young people to try and make a difference and he told them that even little things can be remembered by others. In my own life I can look back and remember clearly little kindnesses shown to me. I will never forget them.

  6. Hi Georgia, Thanks for posting. Like you, I struggle with kindness. But the message I heard from this man was that we become more of what we do. So by being kind, we become kind. And, I’ll tell you something else – kindness from a big sister is one of the most wonderful things a person can get! So go girl!
    I will tell Celia to come here and read your message.

  7. Hi Lisa, I love this quote too. And we can *choose*. We always have choice, don’t we?

  8. Hi Anneke, Thank you. Yes, it’s an achievement, isn’t it? It represents a lot of hard work and determination. And what a blessing for us to be able to listen to so much encouragement in the ceremony, too. And the academic staff were very supportive and positive in their attitude and words. It felt very good.

  9. Hi Stephanie

    What a WONDERFUL address from that academic to your daughter’s class. I just about gave him a round of applause in front of the computer. I’m going to read it to my kids today….And HUGE congratulations to Celia…a beautiful girl and a fantastic achievement.



  10. Hi Angie, Thank you for your kind words to me and to Celia. Yes, it was a very remarkable speech – I was scribbling notes as fast as I could. And our other children who were with us really appreciated what he said. Patrick said that he felt like the guy was talking directly to him!


  11. Hi Stephanie, great to read this tonight. We have a family devotion called “Walking with God”, where you choose a favourite verse from a set reading and my 7 year old daughter and I both chose Phillipians 4:5 …let your kindness be seen by all men…” and then you share what you believe God is saying to you… this just fitted in so well with your article…It is something we are constantly talking about and praying for… can be challenging… but never impossible… bless you


  12. Sarah, thanks so much for your comment. I have re-read my own post and feel encouraged to kindness afresh. Blessings on your and your little ones as you strive towards kindness and blessing others with your talents. 🙂

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