The devil is intelligence without love

Is the ruthless pursuit of performance good?
What can we say about a society that rewards effort over everything else?

Why do we marvel at intellectual prowess more than kindness?

I'll be honest: I hesitated for a while before writing this week's essay. I took a deep breath as I wrote the title: "The devil is all intelligence and no love."

Look at the world we live in.

From a young age, we are encouraged to place our self-worth in our achievements. Schools give grades and rank children based on their (school) smarts.

You either pass or don't. The judgment is harsh and sticks to you like dog shit to the sole of your sneakers. The best students, according to intelligence measurement, will ultimately get to choose their careers.

At work, promotion is given to the smartest or most performant, with often no regard to how they behave towards others.

Few opportunities exist in our modern world to learn and reinforce love, compassion, and caring for the other. I'm not saying that people are not generous, but I argue that we have few incentives in place to reward generosity.

It's terrible because intelligence coming from any other place than love will cause sufferingā€”both for the person deploying it and for the person impacted by it.

A new energy source can help fight poverty or exterminate a civilization.

Admittedly, we witness some people actively engaged in defending political or societal positions. But it's easy to slip into self-righteousness or hatred for the people you think are wrong. The other camp.

It isn't true love, true care, true compassion.

I read "Writing to Learn" by William Zinsser a while back. Here's a quote I kept from it:

"If such values aren't imparted in the classroom they will probably never get imparted; college students who are praised and coddled for acquiring technical knowledge aren't likely to have an onset of ethics when they get out in the world of profit and loss."

As a dad of two, I think a lot about love and kindness.

Having kids challenges you. It confronts you on things that you had previously chosen to ignore. It pokes you where it hurts. It reveals your inadequacies. You look at how you think and behave with them and realize how easy it is to fall short of true love.

When I ponder about my role as an educator to them, intellectual topics come to mind. I want to teach them to speak French properly, write, read, and play chess. For all of these, the paths to teaching them are pretty straightforward.

What about the rest?

I hope that they can learn from watching my wife and me live, as well as from our extended families and friends. I hope I can express myself in ways that put kindness before the rest most of the time.

But before all, I hope to candidly share with them my intention to place love first. I can deliberately do this by spending time talking to them about it. Just like I would sit and look at the chessboard with them.

Here is my plea to all of you who nodded as you were reading this essay:

Don't make love a second-class quality, but let's recognize it as what should be the source of everything.

Luke 12:29-31

"And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you."