November 13 is World Kindness Day and #makekindnessthenorm is trending. This got me thinking, “duh” and then, “what is kindness, really, and why are we not more kind?”
The first thought that popped into my mind was that being kind, just like loving, starts with the person. Love is a fountain when there is a deep inner source. Kindness is natural and altruistic when someone is kind to themselves, because then we remember we are all kin.
There are so many reasons we are just a little unkind to ourselves, being critical of even the smallest missteps and unforgiving of past oversights. I believe that comes from trauma, conditioning, existential fear, and our overculture. From all that births or perpetuates our beliefs about the world and how we fit or do not fit in. We assess the level of our safety and belonging, define how successful we are in our relationships and in life, as ourselves, and stress about gaps that we believe exist. Then there are past life influences.
Again though, what is kindness? So I looked up the definition to explore more.
Merriam-Webster‘s online offering of “kindness” led to the definition of “kind”:
- of a sympathetic or helpful nature
- of a forbearing nature : Gentle
- arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance
- of a kind to give pleasure
- chiefly dialectical : affectionate, loving
So maybe this is where kindness runs into some trouble .. because what is helpful? It’s subjective. When a child falls down, one parent may rush to pick them up and another may let them figure it out. Is one parent more kind than the other?
What if you were a bystander watching this all go down? You may feel for the child being left alone. You may even feel like shouting some choice words at the parent. Sympathy comes from shared experiences, sensitivity, and the ability to enter into an emotional or mental field with another being. It’s good to observe how we react to different, and especially difficult, situations. That can reveal our patterns and where our own prejudices lie.
And is being a little helpful a good thing or a crutch? Which is more kind? Are we feeding someone fish, teaching them how to fish, or showing them there is so much more than fishing?
These are some thoughts to mull over, about our relationship with ourselves, others (including of course, non-human and non-material), the world, and our reality. Let’s also not forget kindness is action so get out there today and live your most kind self. Check out some ideas below, get connected to your heart and get creative with how you can express your kindness in an authentic way. Leave your fear of unbelonging or ridicule snoozing today, reach out of your comfort zone, and offer up some kindness deeds to yourself and the world.
World Kindness Day Ideas
- take yourself on a date, book that art lesson, enjoy that bath, get outside or whatever it is you’ve been telling yourself you don’t have the time or some other excuse. Start a self-care practice.
- view life more on a spectrum, rather than black or white. Be less polarizing and hold back from commenting on polarizing issues and just observe what happens within. Because our storytelling can be harmful.
- take a pause before responding; suspend judgment of others and of yourself. Give everyone the benefit of doubt.
- smile and say hello to everyone, tip generously regardless of service, and give extra to the homeless. Say thank you!
- ❤️’s on social media and leave a helpful, fun, and supportive text.
- turn off the news and share unifying articles, memes, and posts online.
- allow people to go ahead, in line, in traffic.
- book a clown for the children’s ward (check with the hospital first). Send flowers or snacks to nurses, teachers, firefighters, office cleaners, condo staff, etc. You know, people usually taken for granted. So yeah, yourself too.
- open the door for someone, even if they don’t look like they may need the help.
- offer up your skills or time to someone – raking leaves in their yard (or shovelling snow!), grabbing that complicated coffee order for a colleague, offering someone a ride…
These are just some ideas for today, and really, every day. In the process we’ve going to learn a thing or two about ourselves, people around us, and the world. Modelling kindness is how we change the world – our legacy for the future generations.