Kindness: Our Most Precious ResourceDoug Scavezze
Most of us have seen videos of people doing “random acts of kindness” on YouTube or social media. While viewing them, you may ask the question, “Does this represent kindness or is it more about self-promotion?”
At this time of year, we are encouraged to celebrate gratitude, be kind, and promote goodwill towards others. People do this in a variety of ways. We pay for things, buy things, donate, or bake treats for our family and friends, just to name a few.
We can do things that are nice for each other. Most people know how to be nice to someone. They can smile and be polite or say something nice. They may even feel like they know what it means to be kind because they can be nice.
We can often confuse being nice with kindness and think that they are synonymous with each other. Make no mistake, there is a profound difference between being nice and being kind or expressing kindness. Think about what you do to be nice versus what you do to be kind.
When you really think about kindness and what it means for you, what does it look like?
You may envision a person helping someone else or giving some money to someone in need. Thoughts of people hugging or laughing together come to mind. Little kids helping each other or someone helping a child who fell down are all likely images.
Is there a difference between being nice and being kind? Some would say there’s a HUGE difference. Houston Kraft in his book, Deep Kindness, states the following about the difference between nice and kindness:
We all know Kindness is important, but not everyone wants to do the work. Everyone thinks they are nice. And I think that’s dangerous.
Why? Because niceness can be the demeanor of the dismissive. Nice people can have the attitude of people who’ve already arrived: “I’m a nice person” leaves little room for growth. The nice person need not improve because they believe they’re already there.
The nice person isn’t always self-reflective. They often assume they’re helping others, when they are mostly helping themselves. Have you ever seen someone get defensive when someone doesn’t accept their niceness? “How dare they! I’m doing something nice for them!” is the reaction of pride, not generosity.
The nice person has a countenance based on convenience. They will act one way around you and potentially a very different way around someone else. They’ll say, “What a nice dress!” with a plastered-on smile, and then make fun of you behind your back. They’ll help pick up trash after a long night – but only if someone is watching so they can get the credit.
He goes on to say:
Nice is unproductive. It doesn’t move the needle forward. It doesn’t shift the status quo.
Why? Nice is easy – it is reactive at its best and self-serving at its worst. Nice is easy because it is “I”-oriented. Do I have the time? Do I like you? Do I feel like it? Do I have anything to lose?
Kindness is different – Kindness is proactive.
Someone doesn’t have to drop something in order for us to lift them up or encourage them. Something bad shouldn’t have to happen in order for us to practice making people feel good!
Where nice is “I”-oriented, Kindness is heart-oriented. It says, “We all need attention and appreciation. We are all deserving of generosity and hope.” It moves beyond feelings and conveniences. It is a deliberate choice to bring encouragement, support, or appreciation to yourself or others.
When we align ourselves with the deep purpose of Kindness, it motivates action even when we don’t “feel like it.” Growth, improvement, and expansion are expensive – and the biggest costs are convenience and comfort.
Nice steps back, while Kindness steps up. Nice happens when there is time; Kindness happens because we make time. Nice expects something in return, while Kindness is free from expectation.
To put it simply: nice people don’t change the world, but Kind people can.
All of this goes a long way towards saying that kindness isn’t always easy or simple to do or express. It must be heartfelt, free of judgment or expectations. Kindness isn’t convenient or easy, especially when we try to express it to someone we don’t like. It takes work. We must be willing to put aside our differences and listen, truly listen, in order to understand and uniquely show it to others.
The act of being kind is part of what makes us work, as a society. Think of it as the glue that keeps us together and forms lifelong bonds. It’s more than just the act. It also involves awareness and empathy for others.
Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. – Mark Twain
True kindness is about meeting people where they are, along with letting go of expectations or judgments about how they respond. It’s about how you can serve or help another person the way they need it. Understanding what they need requires us to observe, listen, and understand their needs and desires. To do this, we must be willing to connect with them through empathy and genuine concern for them.
If you want to be kind for purely selfish reasons, there are also mental and physical benefits from being kind to others. Multiple studies and research have shown kindness to improve mental and emotional well-being too. So, yes, many of the things we do can be self-serving, including kindness. But, that’s not the point. It’s really about the knowledge and experiences we gain in our lifetime. The act of kindness helps make this journey easier, not only for ourselves, but more importantly for the rest of humanity.
Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why and creator of the Golden Circle theory, talks about the importance of understanding our “Why” for doing something. He also talks about the benefits of being kind without any expectations. Deep Kindness is one of our most precious resources which is something the world must have, now more than ever.
Life presents many opportunities and also many challenges. We experience deep sadness, heartbreak, fear, guilt, and shame along this journey. There are many times we feel rejected, ignored, or even abused by the people and world around us. Some days it may be hard to get out of bed, shower, or even go outside. We can feel alone or isolated, at times, leaving us feeling like we’re stranded on a deserted island. Life is hard and it can be downright miserable at various times.
We must always remember this: You never know what another person is going through.
Kindness makes life more bearable, more enjoyable, and can instill a sense of hope and optimism. It’s a beautiful way of saying, “I see you” to another person and helping them see they aren’t alone or left to their own devices. Through kindness we discover our humanity and become more open to accepting humanity from others.
As with most things in life, it all starts with you. Take some time each day to cultivate kindness within yourself and have the courage to share it with others. It’s one of the most worthwhile things we do for each other and part of “why” we’re here!