“Quaker to a burglar: ‘Friend, I would do thee no harm for the world, but thou standest where I am about to shoot'” (Anonymous).
IS THERE EVER A TIME WHEN IT WOULD BE OUT OF PLACE TO BE CONSIDERATE? Well, perhaps. Consideration means that we try to avoid hurting the feelings of others, and as important as that often is, there are some occasions when feelings shouldn’t be the primary concern. For example, a person who would refuse to do justice because he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings would have a confused set of values. Nevertheless, it’s probably true that we err more often in the opposite direction. Even when it is in order, we fail to be considerate.
Actually, the word “consideration” can be used in two ways. First, it means to “consider” something, to give careful thought to it or ponder it. But second, we speak of “showing consideration” to someone, and by that we mean being courteous or kind to them. Yet doesn’t the second kind of consideration grow out of the first? When we show consideration to those around us, isn’t that because we’ve thought about them? Yes it is, and that’s why consideration is so greatly appreciated. It’s an action by which we say, “You matter enough to me that I have thought about you. I have taken the time to consider you.”
Emerson said, “Consideration is the soil in which wisdom may be expected to grow.” I think that’s true in both of the senses above. Obviously, thoughtful concentration is what produces one kind of wisdom, but listen: there’s also a wisdom (maybe a better one) that comes from thoughtful concern for the people we’re connected to.
But just as being considerate gives us wisdom, it takes wisdom to show consideration. It’s a mistake to think that having generous feelings toward someone is enough to tell us how to treat them. Charles Seymour wrote, “Consideration is not merely a matter of emotional goodwill but of intellectual vigor and moral self-sacrifice. Wisdom must combine with sympathy.” So the ideal is both wise consideration and considerate wisdom, and these are truly wonderful traits to learn.
Your greatness is measured by your kindness —
Your education and intellect by your modesty —
Your ignorance is betrayed by your suspicions and prejudices —
Your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others.
(William J. H. Boetcker)