Promoting kindness seems everywhere these days. I see it on bumper stickers, posters, FB and Instagram posts and most certainly in schools. I even have a poster that says “Be Kind” on my door in my classroom.
Sometimes I get very cynical with the notion. Don’t get me wrong, I whole heartedly believe that we should be kind. Maybe it’s the way the message is being conveyed that makes me chuckle in disbelief- “Be kind? Us? Ha!” First of all, how bossy are those bumper stickers? Second of all, nobody tells me what to do! I’ll be kind when I want to be kind, and only when it benefits me!
I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right?
In reality though, what does it really mean to be kind, because I personally believe that being kind is one of the hardest things to do. It’s like asking me to like cilantro. NO THANKS!
Be kind to the person who cuts me off while driving? NOPE!
Be kind to the person who is rude to me at the store? DON’T THINK SO!
Be kind to the person who insults me in an email? YEAH RIGHT!
I’ll be kind to the person who strokes my ego, lifts up my wounded heart, and agrees with me about my politics and values, thank you very much!
See, kindness does exist, but it only exists tribally! You see, the root word for kindness is kin and kind, in other words, kindness is what I extend to my kin. So I’ve been wondering- is it really kindness when I only extend it to my kin, to those who are like me? In my own experience, that is where kindness ends.
So how do we promote kindness when we really don’t know how to do it?
I think a lot of us are trying, but it certainly isn’t easy. It’s something that takes up a lot of conscious effort and humility to really be kind to someone who is so different from us, and especially to someone who has been unkind to us.
I remember reading once, “Do not be concerned with how others treat you, rather be concerned about how YOU treat others.” In reality we live the opposite way- and so we have a lot of unkind people in the world.
So maybe promoting kindness has more to do with ourselves and how we treat others, and in all of this, the first and most important person to be kind to is ourselves! After all, practice is what makes this doable, and progress not perfection, is what the goal should be.
I’ll still probably cuss the person out who cuts me off of traffic, because nothing pisses me off more, but I want to be more aware of my interactions with others and do my best to be kind, because what the world needs right now, more than ever, is kindness!