Kindness. “caring about others; gentle, friendly and generous.” (Oxford, 6th Edition, 2000)
‘Practice Random Acts of Kindness’ stickers give me the serious poops. Why is kindness a random act? Random?
Ever sense I’ve decided that writing my opinions will be my work I’ve become a bit of a definition maniac. The ghosts of misinterpreted writers, even those that didn’t write anything down, sit on my left shoulder. So, back to the dictionary.
Random. “done, chosen etc. without thinking or deciding in advance what is going to happen” Yep, Oxford again.
Okay, so I get it. Acting kindly is not a goal people consciously aim towards. Personally, I reckon that explains a lot.
More than two years ago one of my clients committed suicide. I sat after forty-six years of personal, academic and professional pursuit with the most simplistic truth before me; a truth I had known as a child.
If Kindness…and yes I intentionally give it a capital to indicate its importance…if Kindness would become, not a random act, but a constant goal for each of us as we interact in our communities, so much of that which leads people to antidepressants, suicide, addictions and anxieties would simply not occur.
And I challenge each reader, particularly my fellow Aussies given the comfort we live in, to implement Kindness in your world. For kindness is a conscious act.
But first we’d better define what kindness means and what it absolutely does not mean. I think sometimes people shy from the word because of some misconceptions.
Let’s start with the most important point. Kindness is not dishonest! As such it is not always nice.
Kindness doesn’t blind its eyes to weaknesses and as such ‘nice’ does not always apply. This time I won’t check the dictionary for ‘nice’ because here, I am speaking less of the true definition and more of the common way niceness is practiced in our society.
Niceness seems to accept dishonesty and hypocrisy as foundational conditions for its practice. Women particularly struggle with this one, a consequence of western conditioning perhaps that labels us bitches or butches if we speak up.
Indeed I have met many a ‘nice’ woman in a florid psychosis directly due to their minds/hearts/souls stressing out at the suppression required in achieving ‘niceness’.
Kindness is not this. Kindness must speak the truth, because it is absolutely true in an emotional sense, that the truth will set you free.
For kindness then, lies are cruel. Lies waste your time hence devaluing you and degrading the relationship between us. Kindness speaks its truth and continues to love anyway because weakness is, and has always been, universal.
Kindness does not disempower.
So many times in Psychiatric hospitals I’d see Social Workers acting under the justification of ‘kindness’ with clients that had, for example, mismanaged their finances. Without conferring the Social Worker would apply for a guardianship order so the state took over the clients’ money.
This is not kindness. This is disempowerment.
So what is Kindness?
Well a great example of real Kindness is when you’ve had a really crappy day and you get home and your toddler throws a balmy or your teen has chosen that night to disagree and challenge your very right to air (I have a fourteen year old). Kindness starts when you don’t slap them down like your first instinct wants to!
And it continues when instead you breathe deeply and with gentleness, friendliness and generosity you seek a better communication line with your child, oh by the way, at the same time role-modelling to your child that communicating kindly is far preferably to tantrum throwing! How can that be a bad thing?
This is why I say Kindness is a conscious choice.
Or it’s when you give smiles to total strangers as you walk in town just because you know smiling makes folk feel good.
Kindness is when you don’t lose you temper at that idiot driver because, lets face it, we all screw up in the car sometimes.
And Kindness is not choosy. Kindness is inclusive of all life, of all our interactions. To the people we love, but aren’t often kind to in the way we communicate with them, to people who challenge our prejudices and class issues. Children, adults, the vulnerable, the ugly pretty smart dumb family member complete stranger….everyone!
Oh one more thing that Kindness is not and that is stupid! Be kind and you’ll get ripped off my friends would say. Only if you’re stupid would be my reply. Being Kind does not mean you leave you observational skills, your common sense, your assessment skills at home!
But practicing Kindness is difficult. It requires immense patience, a constantly thinking mind, constantly evolving communication skills, and mature self-discipline. And it requires self-forgiveness. For all the times we bugger it!
So why try? Its simple isn’t it? Would you prefer people acted with friendliness, gentleness and generosity towards you dear reader, or with hostility, with cruelty and with contempt?
Now not one single person I’ve met, and its been a lot, have ever chosen the latter and I bet dear reader you didn’t either. From the very moment of birth we respond to kindness and recoil from cruelty. A kind voice we run towards an angry one we shrink inside. And yet…
…we ignore the older parent because our lives are so busy and after all if they would only learn to use the computer (as if they didn’t need to see you smell you touch you).
…we yell at our kids because we are stressed or just because we can’t be bothered remembering what its like to be a kid.
…we ignore the neighbour even though we know she’s struggling because, well, for the thousands of sound rational reasons we provide to ourselves.
…we ignore the plight on the mentally ill which number is encompassing so many more of us. Not to mention the disabled and those in our now global community who actually starve to death.
…we ask for apologies and money instead of true ethical change be it from the government, the Roman Catholic Church be we indigenous, orphans, lost children etc etc etc…
I can personally assure you that within the Mental Health sector, Government, Private and the Community Organizations, kindness is impossible to practice under the power of the almighty budget, charity is gone, and professional ethical practice is compromised on a daily basis.
And we still have horrific child abuse statistics.
But it is not them and us because them is us!
So whether you follow the biological/psychological model where kindness promotes growth and the opposite deforms, of whether you like the Jesus one of treating others as you wish to be treated, or Gandhi’s one that to create community change the individual must first change I ask you…
Isn’t acting in kindness a worthy goal for your life personally? Wouldn’t it be seriously cool if you were able to pull this off…at least as much as possible. Let’s face it if you want kindness you have to give it.
Kindness helps, cruelty harms. Seems simple to me.