It’s a tip frennnnnnzy today – here’s last week’s tip on kindness.
Wednesday was World Kindness Day.
Kindness strikes me as one of the most import conditions for a better world. Fortunately we are surrounded by acts of kindness every day. From holding the door for someone, to saying “don’t worry about it” when a colleague makes a mistake; kindness slips into daily life effortlessly. Unkindness, and particularly the feeling that someone has been unkind to you, can stick out like a sharp edge.
Many moons ago I was infatuated with a new boyfriend in the way that is probably only possible the first time you fall in love. I thought he was quite simply one of the best humans to have ever been placed on earth. Bully for all the other girls who missed out.
We swanned around campus so delighted by each other and ourselves for having attracted such a fine specimen. We annoyed the cynics and put smiles on the faces of the romantics.
One day, in a conversation I have long forgotten, this great love of mine made a dismissive comment about something that was important to me. Whatever it was, the comment stung deeply. At first I felt it in my heart and then the pain leapt to my mind for quick analysis. “How unkind of him to say that” I thought.
We did not break up because of that conversation, but when we did break up I drew upon that moment as evidence he was not the man for me. I recalled with graveness that he had been unkind.
Since then, knowing that I hold kindness in high regard, I have tried very hard to be a kind person. I’m not sure I’m always successful. Like most of us, I think and express unkind thoughts when I’m angry, frustrated or careless with a comment.
But I try – and I think this might be the key.
Once I stuck a reminder on my pin board to “Be Kind”. It was surprisingly effective. As I stared at my computer my eyes would wander over to the note. It encouraged mindfulness about this thing I thought was important.
This is very similar to the approach taken by Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project. She has Personal Commandments, short statements that encapsulate the overarching principles by which she tries to live her life. Her commandments include “Be polite and be fair” and “Do what ought to be done”. There is something powerful about identifying your goal in a thoughtful moment so you can remind yourself later.
However, even a note on your pin board won’t guarantee your kindness all the time. One person’s friendly joking (kindness) might be someone else’s ridicule (unkindness). But consciously turning your mind to the goal of kindness will increase the chances of avoiding unintentional, grumpy or careless unkindness. Hopefully it will also reveal opportunities for kindness. A compliment on someone’s outfit, or offering to help to someone who looks lost.
It can all sound Pollyanna-ish when it’s written down, but I’m confident none of these things appear out of the ordinary, saccharine or phony in practice.
The World Kindness Movement, the good people behind World Kindness Day, have put together a long and eclectic list of Kind Things to Do, which in itself seems like a rather kind thing to do.
Here are some of my favourites from the list (I was particularly pleased with presence of an item about kindness to oneself):
- Smile at the people you make eye contact with each day.
- Donate blood.
- Write letters of appreciation.
- Avoid negative self-talk.
- Avoid criticising anyone’s dreams of the future.
Happy (belated) World Kindness Day. May you give and receive kindness today and every other day.