Photo is of Bitsy. My kindness reminder
It’s Friday evening on World Kindness Day; perhaps rather fittingly it coincidentally falls on Friday the 13th in this most peculiar and unpredictable year of 2020. Personally, I never paid much attention to the superstitions and reputation of bad luck with which this day has been historically plagued, and as those with friggatriskaidekaphobia so fervently believe. Although It has occurred over 100 times during my life, nothing significant has ever stood out. However, the thought of these two days in unanimity presented itself as a timely and appropriate theme.
Kindness has gone through an evolution for me. In the last eight years it has become a high priority and I have made a conscious effort to improve and proliferate it. I think kindness – and every virtue yielding similar fruit – needs to be thought of as a muscle, and the more we exercise and implement it the more adept we are at augmenting and utilizing it.
Unfortunately, somewhere during the early development of our species, kindness didn’t cement itself in our DNA. It was minimized rather than being treasured as a meaningful quality. Perhaps in our early history, survival steered us away from compassion and blanketed the importance kindness had for the enrichment of society as a whole.
Admittedly, it was not something to which I paid much attention during my early and formative years. Many of my most lamentable memories are those when I was unkind, thoughtless, or cruel to others. Thankfully, like exercise, it is never too late to begin a kindness workout regimen.
A bad rap
Kindness was dealt a severe blow when it was first perceived as weakness. There is, however, great irony identifying it in this way. When someone antagonizes us, it doesn’t take much discipline or restraint to counter those verbal attacks with a similar or more stinging retort. Mustering the courage not to inflame the conversation is a much greater indicator of self-control and determination than by drawing on the ugliness our fragile egos arouse. Who would rather be greeted with spitefulness and brutality rather than kindness? There is no valor in repaying callous behavior with the same.
Sadly, there have been multitudes of contemporary examples from those claiming to be leaders demonstrating unkind and frankly childish conduct, which eventually decays into name calling, shouting matches, and a deep polarization of those whom they were elected to lead. If the remedy were to amplify the ongoing hostile rhetoric, then certainly all the infighting would have been completely eradicated by now.
Quelling these debates does not have a single solution. Those who refuse to believe there is any strength in kindness will never use it and cannot understand how it could ever be a solution. They will dig in their heels, disregard reason, and continue to fire off despicable and hateful language because they falsely believe it is the only way they will win. These disastrous situations never have a peaceful solution and commonly skew toward the most brazen aggressor.
Bullies have assumed this aggressive style from being victims themselves. They were taken advantage of and witnessed their antagonists laughing or appearing to gain the upper hand at the expense of their dignity. The horrible shame they felt from these tragedies convinced them the only way to win would be to refine their sadistic approach and watch their victims suffer a similar fate.
This is precisely where strength of character and raw determination should never allow someone else’s bad behavior ruin your ability to be who you are. We were not born vindictive, malicious, or unkind. While our upbringing and environment have great influence on our values and what we also value, this kind of behavior is not who we are but rather what we’ve allowed ourselves to become.
Kindness is the cure
I believe kindness is the key to our future. It has the power to transform those on whom it is bestowed and strengthen the character of those exercising it. Although it cannot be required or legislated, when voluntarily used, it is infectious. In fact, the best way to spread its virtues is by inundating and engulfing everyone in its warm and encouraging grasp. When society embraces kindness its opposite behavior becomes shunned causing it to lose its perceived power and credibility. This conversion won’t happen in an instant, but the more people who adopt this attitude, the quicker it will pervade humanity.
Don’t simply be kind only to those who are kind to you. Remember, the real strength comes in not succumbing to the temptation of reiterating the same offensive words ranted toward you.
For those who continually repay your kindness with abhorrent behavior, your response can be something as simple as restraining from engaging with them. These are the most challenging situations again with no one-size-fits-all answer. You may falter or you may be mistreated. The key is to learn from that experience and do your best not to allow the actions of others to create within you the exact behavior for which you are working so hard to condemn. It’s not easy and is why it takes a concerted effort constantly exercising your kindness muscle.
I’d like to end with a story breaking the end to a string of insignificance on Friday the 13th. This morning I messaged several people “Happy World Kindness Day.” After texting my son, he replied, “what’s that”? My response was “a day to focus on kindness.” His second reply simply read, “I try to do that every day. Didn’t know we needed to designate a day to that”!
I couldn’t have asked for a better and more timely response.
The picture is of my cat Bitsy. She is a constant reminder of how being kind saved a precious life. I look forward to your thoughts.