In our world that can be incredibly unkind in many ways, we may have to work a little harder to find it, and create it, within ourselves and for others. This hard work is worth it. When we are in the presence of kindness, everyone wins. It can also be contagious… in a good way!
Something important to consider is that kindness is not the same thing as niceness. We are so often taught to “be nice”, but this comes with many explicit and implicit expectations of keeping to the status quo, to the social norms, and of towing the line so as to not create a sense of discomfort. This often leads to many unhealthy situations, discounting our inner truth, and creating a lack of safety and connection.
When we are being kind, we are behaving in ways that are truly “for the good of the herd”, whether that herd is our family, team, community, etc. This includes ourselves; when we feel safe and connected, we have the ability to help others feel that way too. A moment of kindness can be as simple as taking a deep breath, and creating a pause for our nervous systems to regulate. Sometimes, the kindest thing we can do is to set a healthy boundary, speak our truth, or let someone go. Those things wouldn’t fall into the “be nice” category, and yet those forms of kindness do open the door to creating more safety and connection, especially when we can keep our hearts open through the process.
No matter what form it takes, kindness deserves our effort and our time. Our world needs it, and we all benefit.
As you read through the following reflections by Dr. Rebecca Bailey, Jaycee Dugard, Margie McDonald, and Carmen Theobald consider what “kindness” means to you.
Reflections on “Kindness” from trauma therapist, Dr. Rebecca Bailey
Kindness is a trait that I admire most in a person. I have always aspired to be kind, but when stressed I can miss the mark. Impatience and arrogance are the enemies of kindness. When we get in a hurry we get rattled and dysregulated, contributing to a deficit of empathy. Empathy and kindness go hand in hand. Many of the individuals and families I have worked with have lost the ability to tap into their empathy, resulting in unkindness to others, and more importantly, to themselves. When we turn on ourselves it is more likely we will also lash out at others. Not sure why; maybe misery loves company, or maybe when someone is so down on themselves they can’t muster the energy to be kind to others. Regardless of the reason, if I had one magic wish it would be to foster kindness in each of us. It sounds like a sophomoric wish, but a worthy one nevertheless.
As a therapist, there have been times when I have needed to remember that most of us are the product of the systems around us, whether the system is the family or the greater system. People can easily get caught up in the sentiments of unkindness of the groups around them. Reminding people to slow down and center themselves can sometimes support kindness and empathy. It is a worthy task…
Reflections on “Kindness” from trauma survivor, Jaycee Dugard
Growing up Mr. Rogers was one of my favorite shows. Mr. Rogers always had a lesson to teach, and a kind word for people and animals. But he also said “The world is not always a kind place.” I find this to be true a lot of the time. The world is harsh – we might think kind thoughts but what do we do about it? I also find it hard to have kind thoughts about people that have wronged me.
Do I consider myself a kind person? Yes. To be very honest though I find it hard to be kind 100% of the time. Do you ever feel like this? Do you ever think about doing something for someone but in the end just not do it? On the other hand, I’ve witnessed many acts I would call kind. Like the women at Starbucks buying her co-workers their favorite drink or snack just because she wanted to. Or the person that brings my dog water when I sit down for lunch. Or the unexpected phone call after hours from your veterinarian calling to check in on a sick pet. I know a lot of kindness happens every day, and maybe some days are harder to see it than others. Did you know the word kindness has roots in the word “kin”, meaning family or clan? We are all a part of this human family, and it’s up to all of us to make the world a kinder, more connected place.
Reflections on “Kindness” from horse specialist, Margie McDonald
Thinking about kindness inspirers me. I mean really, just thinking of that word, or seeing that word in print, causes a shift in my being. When I’m driving and I remember the word kindness, my habits change. I physically drop my shoulders and become more tolerant. If I’m riding a horse and I think of kindness, I suddenly feel more connected to the horse. I become more involved in our ability and desire to understand each other. Showing a horse a new idea about how to approach an obstacle and incorporating kindness into my training, I become relaxed and receptive to the horse’s concerns. As my clients enter the barn for equine work and I picture the word kindness, I feel a surge of love and compassion. Kindness makes me open to other’s perspectives, be it a human, a horse, or any animal. Kindness equals connection and appreciation. It is part of a process that can help slow my thinking down and become more centered, more grounded and, in harmony with my world. Kindness causes me to change my thinking, my behavior, to be a more compassionate, generous person.
Reflections on “Kindness” from empowerment coach, Carmen Theobald
I’ve noticed that my ability to be kind to others is completely linked to my ability to be kind to myself. If my inner critic is feeling particularly emboldened, and my self-talk becomes harsh, it’s next to impossible for me to authentically show kindness to others. I can fake it, but it’s not sincere. The horses were exceptional teachers for me in this way, reflecting back to me that I wasn’t showing up in my truth. They could always see right through my faux-kindness, and give me the look that seemed to say “good try, but I don’t believe you”. They see right through any mask I may be trying wear, and see right into my heart.
I’m so grateful for their kind honesty. They give me opportunities to dig deep, discover what’s really going on, and celebrate with me when I figure it out. Their kind honesty has allowed me to authentically be kind to myself, to show myself the kindness that I want to show others, and become the person that I want to be. Developing a deeper well of self-kindness with the horses has strengthened me to show up for humans in this way too. It’s transformed all my relationships for the better. Most of all, it’s transformed my relationship with myself.
Now it’s your turn!
What does “kindness” mean to YOU?