I believe that kindness is perhaps one of the most important, but sadly often overlooked, personality traits that a human can have. Genuine kindness towards others is a trait not often found because it means that one has to consider the thoughts and feelings of another person and put them above their own. It might mean that they have to go out of their way to help someone or say something to make somebody else’s day brighter. Sometimes kindness means that people have to be happy to forgo their own desires to allow the happiness of another. People often give up what they want so that someone else is happy but are then so displeased about it that resentment builds. Is this still kindness? Other times, someone shows kindness with the sole purpose of getting something in return. Is this kindness? What about the times when someone demonstrates kindness and then advertises their kind deeds to gain attention or admiration? Kindness? Do these things even matter or is a kind deed a kind deed no matter what happens afterwards? I’ve been pondering these concepts for quite some time now and the more I think about them, the more complex in nature they become.
Giving something up that you want in order to make someone else happy is noble and magnificent but perhaps the cost should be considered. Did it make you feel good to do this kind thing or was it difficult and upsetting? I think there are always circumstances that influence how we feel about our actions; kind or otherwise. For example, I am certain that each one of us has sacrificed something that we’ve wanted at some point in our lives to ensure the happiness of someone we love (if you are a parent, you would do this on a daily basis!) but we possibly wouldn’t do the same thing for a stranger or maybe someone who hasn’t been kind to us in the past. Does this make us unkind then? If someone only does kind things for people they love, are they a kind person? I don’t have any answers mind you, I am just contemplating.
Personally, I think that being kind encompasses a whole range of actions and thoughts. I am constantly trying to improve my level of kindness because I feel it is such an important attribute. This is a work in progress but there are a number of methods that I apply regularly to help improve my kindness.
- Give genuine compliments. These compliments can be given to loved ones or complete strangers but if the impulse is there; just do it! It has to be genuine though or it doesn’t mean anything. Think about a time when you were given a genuine compliment by someone and I bet it made your whole day brighter. I want to do that for other people so whenever I can, I give genuine and unique compliments.
- Choose words wisely. Words are incredibly powerful so using words that heal rather than words that hurt is a big step towards kindness. I am constantly on the lookout for new words to add to my vocabulary that can be used to help others feel better about themselves. One comment that I think is terribly unkind is; “See. I told you!” This response is perhaps the least kind thing you can say to someone who has made a mistake. Being kind is much more important than being right and if someone gets something wrong or makes a mistake and you just happened to be right this time, it doesn’t matter! They know they got it wrong, they don’t need someone reminding them. What they need is for someone to be beside them who understands that it’s ok to make mistakes and it’s ok to get things wrong. They need kindness.
- Actively search for ways to be kind. Now, we can’t do this every second of every day of course, but when you enthusiastically and deliberately search for ways to be kind you begin to see opportunities everywhere. Random acts of kindness are food for your own soul and it makes other people feel great too.
- Think about how it would make you feel. This is one of the big ones. I’ve felt both kindness and unkindness towards me and I know which one I would prefer! I use the knowledge about how I feel when someone shows me kindness to show it to others just in case I’m the only person who has been kind to them that day.
- Be kind for the sake of being kind. Do something for someone without an agenda. Don’t tell anyone about it, don’t expect anything in return and see how great it makes you feel. Chances are that your kind act or kind words will be just what that person needed right at that moment. The universe is funny like that and it delivers exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment.
These five things are just the ones that I apply in my life but I am always on the lookout for new ideas. I wouldn’t like to presume that I am always kind all the time but I can honestly say that I am very conscious of ensuring that I am not unkind. Writing this post has created more questions than it has answers for me I think; like – how is kindness measured? Is it measured by the amount of effort on your part or how it has made the other person feel? Is it selfish to do kind things because it makes you feel good about yourself to do it? Is being kind to yourself more important than being kind to others? Do we all agree on what is kind or unkind? Hmmmm. Many questions but it has at least given me the opportunity to put some thoughts down around a subject about which I am very passionate. If we could all be a little more kind every day I think the world would be a much more wonderful place.