There is not one of us that hasn’t been told at some point in our lives, “remember to be kind.” It seems like such a simple thing to do. Yet, kindness seems to have waned in modern times. Globally, terrorism seems to have permeated the hearts and souls of nations paralyzingly many with fear, others with indignation. Nationally, we are divided, torn apart by race, by civilians versus law enforcement, by gender, by political party affiliations, by sexual orientation. Amidst the volume of negativity, small voices rise up and periodically plead with the masses, be kind. Sadly, the small inroads in promoting positivity and fellowship are drowned out by deafening shouts of individuals who are determined to promote their agenda no matter who they may hurt or alienate in the process.
Kindness takes courage. It means doing something alone and regardless of whether or not anyone else is willing to stand beside you. It means kneeling down to help another up, defending those who are weaker, intervening to stop the bully even at the risk of the the bully’s wrath, forgiving those who would do you harm, and letting go of past hurts. It takes understanding and overcoming your own fears to reach out to the rejected. It takes strength to stand by what you believe in even if everyone around you disagrees, yet doing so without demeaning yourself with false accusations, engaging in name-calling, or assuming an air of superiority. You truly don’t stand taller when you step on another. It costs nothing to be kind, but the rewards of kindness are priceless. Kindness has the potential to uplift your own spirits and that of another.
The dwindling of kindness isn’t because we don’t know how to be kind. It seems it is simply more expedient to throw the caustic comment, find reasons to criticize, and justify anger rather than seek forgiveness, admit wrong-doing, or seek to atone for our words or actions. Passionate opinions take control. Frustration in encountering those with a differing opinion shatters the ability to exercise restraint and self-control. Words simply flow out without thought or consideration as to who may be collateral damage to the tirade. We forget to be kind because expressing our thoughts and opinions is far more important in the heat of the moment. In hindsight, pride doesn’t allow us to back down and admit, maybe our words shouldn’t have been so broadly applied.
Nowadays it appears that social media is the forerunner in promoting the unkind. While a handful will seek to remind friends and followers to be kind, it seems that more and more seemingly rationale and intelligent individuals will toss out comments, rant and rave, or post purported stories authored from less than reliable sources for a myriad of reasons. For some, it is with the hope of being noticed in their otherwise lonely and unfulfilled lives. They thrive on stirring up controversy. For others, it is the need to persuade. They cannot conceive that any opinions other than their own could be correct. They contend their opinions are the only ones that are supportable, founded, valid or rationale. And still for others, they read or hear something and feel compelled to react.
Sadly, the majority of these posts concern the current presidential election as individuals choose up sides If only they could exert as much fervor in promoting positive thoughts, kind words, encouragement, compassion, understanding, and happiness. If only, they could be kind.
It is shocking the sources that people will reach out to, regurgitate and cling to as gospel truth. They pick up the proverbial brush and paint a wide swath across the page accusing and judging. People readily post words, comments and stories peppered with unfounded statements and claim them as fact. These are words they would never have the courage to say to another’s face. They forget to be kind.
Kindness begins with respect. Respect for self. Respect for others. It means allowing others their opinions even if you don’t agree with them. It isn’t about shouting them down, belittling them, or engaging in name-calling. It means stopping and asking yourself: “would I say these words to my best friend’s face if I knew that they had a different opinion than me or were supporting the ‘other candidate’?” It means understanding that the thoughts, beliefs and values of individuals must be considered first because even when the same candidate is being supported the reasons for lending support may be entirely different.
“All” is only three letters, but it is a very big word. It is one of the most misused and misapplied words in the English language. It is rarely applicable, especially when it comes to politics or religion, race or countless other circumstances. One can agree with core principles without agreeing with the totality of policies or practices. The biggest mistake that people seem to make is to assume that “all” does, in fact, apply or that stereotypical descriptions are universal. When you think of the stereotypes, do your friends and family members truly fit each and every one of the generalized list? If not, then stop saying all and be kinder and more judicious in your choice of words.
There are so many ways to show kindness. Every time we interact with another human being, whether family, friends, or strangers we are afforded the opportunity to be kind. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Even a smile or a nod of the head acknowledging the other person may be sufficient to send a message that tells that stranger, acquaintance, co-worker, or friend they have worth.
Think of the myriad of adages you have often heard, the sum total of which send an inspiring message to be kind. “If you have nothing kind to say, say nothing at all”; “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”; “to have a friend, you must be a friend”; “think before you speak”; “the bell, once rung, can’t be unrung.” There are so many more, but the gist is similar. They are constant reminders, overt and subtle, that we all have a choice in what we do, what we think and what we say.
We possess the option of being kind, or risking the consequences that arise from being unkind. Words are very powerful. They may hurt, divide, destroy relationships, or even result in a loss of respect, admiration, or trust. Words also have the ability to heal, encourage, uplift, strengthen, and promote goodwill and happiness.
Before writing words, saying words, repeating words, or sharing words stop and ask yourself, am I being kind? Kindness is always preferable to being right. As Mark Twain so eloquently stated, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”