As usual, I like to observe the essence of what I write about before I put fingers to typing… And this month and over the last two years, kindness has been a big theme in my life. I’d like to share some of my observations and experiences and how I evaluate it through my lens. I constantly reflect back on this additional quote from the Dalai Lama when I think of kindness, ‘when we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.’
I began including it in my values set to make sure I was congruent both with the way I care myself and others – and also through a more conscious choice of who I want to surround myself with, measured by their ability to be kind. I was generating an inequality in some friendships, relationships and in business where I felt the scales weren’t matching up. I don’t believe that kindness needs power associated to it, I feel it is intimately linked to equality. To explain this better, I feel it doesn’t need to be measured tit for tat but rather it has a consciousness to it – you treat others the way you want to be treated and when it washes out the ones you care for repay that care with a similar measure of kindness. This doesn’t mean you keep tabs but rather remain in contact with those that offer equivalent measures, and remove the toxicity with those that can’t bring the same level of consciousness to the table.
In the past, I admit that I was often kind to ensure I was accepted and liked, thought of as a good person, generous and it guaranteed I was spoken about in a honourable way.
But often that meant over-expenditure in may levels of my life – emotionally drained from friends’ crisis, financially wasted from being too giving, physically tired from attending all events out of fear of missing out or disappointing someone. So it really wasn’t working for me in that old pattern, I was being kind for the wrong reasons. What was at the core of why I was being overly kind wasn’t authentic and therefore I can’t say hand on heart I was being kind to others, and especially not to myself in that process – all the love was going out for the wrong reasons.
I now view kindness as a bit like that old saying about love, you’ve got to be kind to yourself first before you can be kind to others.
To truly appreciate, accept and return kindness in an authentic way you need to be able to do it for yourself first. I have a quick conversation with myself now when an invitation comes, when I hear myself offering assistance, when I consider what friends are experiencing, and even before I open my mouth to offer words; I pause and reflect on whether I am honouring myself first, and then what can I truly offer the friend that is coming from a place of pure kindness not expecting a return or measure.
Kindness should not be bound by expectation.
I’d love to investigate a few different angles on kindness. The effect it has on those who give, and the effect it has on those to receive. What it means to be kind – to deliver it without expectations or from obligation. How accepting it can be difficult from some, and how intricately it is linked with our humility, confidence and sense of worth.
I want to investigate the idea of random acts of kindness over the acts of kindness that are known. Do you feel a difference when you know who has delivered the care – or do you prefer anonymity? Does it really matter knowing who it was from, the intention or why?
How are you kind to yourself? This is really down to the internal dialogue you have with yourself. Are you speaking with the voice of care, or beating yourself up constantly.
Experiment a little…
Consider what kindness means to you.
Is there something you’d like to change about the volume of kindness in your life?
I leave you with a poem…
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
― Naomi Shihab Nye