“The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” That’s the definition of kindness according to the Oxford English Dictionary. What a wonderful thing to be. We can all use more of that in our lives.
Some people look at being kind as weakness. It is actually the other way around. It takes strength to be kind, especially when those around us are being petty, prejudiced, or argumentative. It takes strength to be kind to those we disagree with, and often to be kind to ourselves. We need that strength now more than ever.
Social media has made it easy to be nasty to others. People say things on Facebook pages like Lyons Open Discussion or on Twitter that they would probably never say directly to a person’s face—at least we hope they would not. Tensions are high right now.
The stresses we are all living under are inescapable. To name them: at the base for everyone is COVID-19 and the specter of oneself or someone close becoming very ill or dying. Quarantine is hard for extraverts and people who need to be with others, or who don’t like to hang out with themselves and their feelings. Many people are worrying about finances, either due to being unemployed or having hours cut. To top it off, the worse thing is the political situation. Both sides see their definition of America as being under attack by the other side. This division even showed up here in Lyons, with the uproar around former Fire Chief Hoffman. There was so much nastiness around that situation, here in our sweet little town, that multiple Front Range news outlets did negative stories on it.
We can mitigate all of this with kindness. We can start by being kind — generous and considerate — to ourselves and about our own feelings. Have you ever said to yourself “I can’t believe I just did that! How dumb can you get!” or something similar? There is a deep vein of perfectionism in American culture, and we ourselves are our worst critics. We don’t deserve that. No one ever learned to walk without falling down lots of times. Mistakes and failures just show us what not to do next time, and if we repeat a mistake, maybe there’s a deeper lesson there we just haven’t learned yet. Try switching that self-talk around to something like: “Well, I blew it this time, but now I know that doesn’t work! I’ll try again in a different way.” Perfection is a myth.
We can be kind while socially distanced, in-person, over the phone, via zoom, or on social media. One way to do this is to imagine how you would feel if someone said to you what you are saying to them.
Right now, especially, without the 60 percent of communication that comes from non-verbal cues, we need to watch how we phrase things. Normally we can see the person’s face and body language and hear slight nuances in their vocal expression. Even on video conferencing, we miss many of those non-verbal cues, and on social media we don’t have any of them. This can lead to miscommunication …or to an opportunity to practice kindness.
Every one of us who cares can make a difference and make the world a kinder place. When we stop and think about how the other person feels, and that we don’t know what is going on in their life, it can be easier to slow down and be kind instead of impatient, generous instead of judgmental, considerate instead of contemptuous.
There is an old example about jumping to conclusions called “Baby in the Back Seat.” In this scenario a driver is stuck at a traffic light that has turned green by a woman who gets out of her car and seems to dig around in her back seat. It turns out there is a baby in the back seat, and he was chocking. Our initial reaction when confronted with an annoying situation that is a mystery to us, is to: blame the other person (for being an idiot); blame ourselves (for pulling up too close to the situation); or search for the reason or solution through action (get out of the car/situation and see it through the eyes of the other person).
So next time you disagree with something someone says, see if you can imagine staying on topic and disagreeing with them with kindness. Next time you hear yourself or someone you know being self-critical, give yourself or them some reasons to be kind and generous to themselves. We will all be stronger and better for it.
Disclaimer: The Content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.