James Martin, S.J. said, “99 percent of the ethical life is being kind to people.” By giving the class of 2023 this class motto, LMU offers its new students the first lesson of their collegiate years: compassion.
The concept of an ethical life has been debated by philosophers for several centuries. Father Martin’s words present us with an opportunity to discuss what this sentiment means and why it applies to all of us, not just the class graduating in 2023.
On the surface, this quote suggests that the key to living ethically is to simply be a nice person. All you have to do is pick up the pencil the stranger next to you in class dropped or serve food at a soup kitchen once a week and you’ll be golden, right?
The motto is from the commencement address Father Martin gave to the Class of 2019 at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he continued to state, “99 percent of the ethical life is being kind to people, from the homeless person on the street who may be easy to be kind to, to the refugee or migrant who others tell you not to be kind to.”
In a world that is constantly changing, we, as the future generation of leaders, are faced with many complex and controversial issues. We are confronted with mass shootings, harmful immigration laws, fires, earthquakes and more. Remaining positive and motivated is challenging to say the least.
The philosophy of kindness also encapsulates engaging in social justice issues, valuing friendships, engaging in self-care and having respect for those around you.
College is an extremely important time in our lives, as we grow into young adults learning to make decisions for ourselves. Everyone is going through their own battles and the least we can do is be kind to each other through it all. Challenge yourself to be kind to those with whom you might not get along and try to start a conversation in order to understand their differing opinions. You might learn something in the process.
An important thing is to remember that when we say “be kind to people,” this includes yourself. You deserve to treat yourself with kindness. This means engaging in self-care, including exercising, going to therapy to writing your essay a week before rather than a night before it is due.
That’s why this motto for the class of 2023 is a great reminder to us all, not just the first years, that we must approach everything we do in life with kindness and care, regardless of the circumstances. Kindness paves the way for an ethical life.