By Haley Kennedy, Recovery Coach – 4.9.2021 —
Kindness (noun): the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate; a kind act.
Kindness is a value that too often is disregarded or seen as weak or naïve. Why is kindness so undervalued? In part, because kind people can be perceived as “enablers” by some, or worse, as “suckers” by those more cynical. The cynic’s view that someone is a “sucker” when they are kind toward others reflects a belief that success is only achievable by ignoring or stepping on others. Yet, the cynic’s behavior rarely results in true happiness—the sense of feeling loved, and that what they’re doing matters. In fact, kindness is linked inextricably to happiness and contentment—psychologically and spiritually— and it requires courage and strength. A study found that happy people are more kind and happiness and gratitude increase with acts of kindness. I believe kindness allows us to be the best version of ourselves, and I am so grateful I learned how to give and receive it.
It starts with yourself.
Ever notice how much better you treat others when you’ve taken care of yourself? In a pressure-filled environment it’s easy to work through lunch, complete household tasks through dinner and respond to emails at 11 p.m. But the world often rights itself when we take a moment, assess what we need, and get it.
While we may not have control over other people, we do have control over ourselves. What does it mean to be our best selves? Being kind is on the list of choices we have each and every day. We can’t make anyone else be kind, but that doesn’t have to stop us from aspiring to be kind, no matter what.
Give to give, not to receive.
Kindness to accumulate thanks is self-serving at best. Some might may even say it’s an effort to control or make the recipient feel indebted. The purest form of kindness may have no audience and offers no credit. To be kind even if — maybe especially if — there’s no payback, sweetens the rewards.
Kindness begets kindness.
A bully of a boss fosters a culture of bullying and fear down the hierarchal line. But the same is true for kindness. We often take our cues from leaders, coworkers, friends, and others we live with. Why not be the kind person from whom others take their cues? The one who helps people turn to one another in, small and big, ways that exhibit generosity.
Lead with compassion.
Although we may not see them, everyone has challenges. That coworker who gave a curt response or a snarky critique recently learned of a difficult loss. Does knowing that urge you to cut them some slack, or better yet to reach out with support? Compassion means recognizing our shared human condition and guides us to acts of kindness. Maybe we keep our mouth shut instead of calling out the behavior, or we ask privately if everything is okay, or we offer to get coffee, or bring them back a cookie just because.
We become more kind with practice.
Aesop, the ancient Greek storyteller, once said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Do one small, kind thing each day for someone and pay attention to the impact it has on you. Does it become easier the more you do it? Do you start to notice and act on more opportunities to be kind in your world? Do you start to feel lighter? Happier?
Kindness is lasting.
One day in the checkout line at the grocery store, my son who was a toddler at the time, decided he was completely over it. He was trying to climb out of the cart, screaming, and wailing his body. In a panic, I tried to load my groceries onto the belt as fast as I could, one handed because the other was keeping my kid from falling out onto his head. It took everything inside of me not to burst out in tears alongside him… I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to hold up the line behind me. I was frustrated with my son. And I felt guilty as a mother, because who can’t handle food shopping?! A woman in line behind me gently tapped my shoulder and said, “We’ve all been there sweetheart, may I help you?” With tears in my eyes, I swiftly nodded my head, stepped away to finish the groceries, and watched as she played peek-a-boo with my son completely relieved and overwhelmed with gratitude. I will never forget that unexpected moment of kindness from a stranger.
Who do you remember most?
And how do you want to be remembered?