The current pandemic has awakened many people to topics on which previously they paid little or no attention. Rethinking priorities and contemplating our own purpose has been a positive side effect from these difficult times. Since many of us are living in closed quarters with a select group of people, the ability to be kind has been thrusted to the top of that list.
We all have some rudimentary sense of what kindness is when seeing or experiencing it. However, some people have a broader scope for the minimum requirements of what is labeled an act of kindness. It is my wish for all to continually expand our own definition and make it our life’s goal to perpetually enlarge it until our last breath.
Imagine a world where this was the primary objective; everyone’s intention would be to treat others with more consideration and generosity. In the blink of an eye, this world would be compelled to be a much better place.
When to be kind
Someone very dear to me once said, “When in doubt, error on the side of kindness.” This really struck a chord deep in my soul. Until then, I had considered myself thoughtful and caring of others. But the idea of kindness as a default action had never been my personal modus operandi. Admittedly, I’ve not had a perfect record, but there were many times it altered my behavior, even when the final outcome would not be in my favor.
It is understandable if one finds fault with this seemingly self-damaging proclamation. No one deliberately wants to cause themselves harm or maltreatment, and this is typically why several people hold to a system where conditions need to lean in their favor or at the minimum, what they perceive as equitable. Now, imagine a world where this rationale is the norm; one in which people negotiate with individuals knowing full well their intentions are to tip the scales in their favor. This can only be the foundation for mistrust, leading to an environment of suspicion, skepticism, and uncertainty.
Perhaps the biggest fear many need to overcome is the idea that kindness is a sign of weakness. There is no statement further from the truth! On the contrary, it takes more strength and self-discipline to show restraint and be kind than it does to rant and display rude and boorish behaviors.
Some people proudly claim they respect others for saying what’s on their minds with no reservations. But those who feel free to express themselves without hesitation often expose their own selfish and arrogant attitudes, revealing their lack of any consideration or concern for anyone else.
I’ll go one step further and say that the lack of one’s own ability to be kind toward others is more a measurement of a selfish heart and in direct proportion to living a conceited and self-centered existence.
In no way am I suggesting you let the decision to be kind make you a human punching bag, nor continually should you allow others to take advantage of your generosity. What I am suggesting is we all reflect on our ability to be thoughtful, empathetic, and understanding toward people in general. Does the idea of being kind to others make you feel squirmish or distressed? If it is difficult for you to grasp this concept, you may want to look deep within yourself and ask why.
The effects of kindness
I would be remiss to say being kind always ends in accolades. Truthfully and on most occasions, you may find yourself on the proverbial short end of the stick. But true acts of kindness impact the heart in ways most individuals who’ve given it may never realize the powerful impression it made.
Sometimes those who receive it may not immediately show signs of gratitude because they were caught off guard or too ashamed to say anything. Nonetheless, the kindness you bestowed very well may inspire them to pay it forward exponentially.
The reason I’ve chosen to error on the side of kindness is not for any gain or good karma. It is simply because I believe it is the right thing to do. If our benevolent actions were done to get something in return, how is that an act of kindness? There is no notable philosopher who taught otherwise. The “Golden Rule” demonstrably implies it and every prominent religious figure both preached and lived it.
At times, it’s prudent we use caution with our kind deeds. There are those who will unfortunately take advantage of anyone’s thoughtfulness and compassion. These people, however, quickly expose their selfish motives and pitiful lack of concern for anything or anyone else. Their idea of “kindness” is explicitly based on a quid pro quo basis and getting something in return is the only reason they would conceive of attempting it.
This kind of reasoning is not kindness but an effort to cover up their own feelings of inadequacy and failures. It is also veiled with a delusional fear believing others are out to get what they have; duping themselves into deeming these actions are preventative and not acts of greed or gain as others so clearly identify them.
Creating a habit of kindness
Kindness can be considered a type of mental muscle. The more it is used, the stronger it becomes and is more prudently applied. As with any positive trait we endeavor to make part of our character, it’s a choice combined with focused attention to achieve it. For some, it may happen more naturally, while others, who were perhaps brought up in an environment where kindness was shunned, will demand more effort from themselves.
There is not one right answer for using kindness in every circumstance. You may even find yourself being upset for missing an opportunity to be kind. These are all learning conditions. Do not allow the lack of kindness in one situation to make you feel ashamed. Kindness is something on which we all can improve. The key is having it become part of your being and philosophy of living.
There are many qualities which positively impact those around you and kindness is just one of them. Molding it into a part of your character enhances you and the way others perceive you. It will also create a legacy far beyond your sphere of influence and has the power to impact the world for future generations.
My thanks to Sebastian Latorre for the wonderful photo and I look forward to your comments.