"When you are kind to others, it not only changes you - but it changes the world" - Harold Kusnher
One year ago there was a hashtag trend and social media movement, spreading the message #BeKind. Unfortunately, this movement was the result of a very tragic loss of a very public figure, Caroline Flack. It highlighted the fact that while sticks and stones may break bones, words are just as painful, and with the rise of the online social world in which we have increasingly become apart of, it is all too easy for those who are unkind to reach us.
This movement really gained momentum - for a while, until like most things, started to fade into the background of all the new noise. That noise was the pandemic! However, at the start of the pandemic, being kind seemed to be our greatest defense. We banned together to protect the vulnerable, the elderly, and the ones we loved. We stayed home, learned how to connect with the family via zoom, checked in on friends and neighbors, and held socially distanced street parties with the people who lived next door, whom we never bothered to get to know before. We came together to uplift and support one another in any way we could. Kindness was our superpower.
Then flash-forward to a year later under the weight of the pandemic oppression and fear, the grief of many losses, a falling economy, unprecedented unemployment rates, and a continuing uncertainty when 'normality' will ever return, and we have the recipe for kryptonite and a weakening of our patience and kindness. In times of stress, we become less self'less' and more self'ish' turning the focus from the other to ourselves.
Instead of hosting neighborhood block parties, in some places it's turned into a neighborhood watch, eagerly reporting their foes for disobedience. Judgment and criticism is everywhere. Camps are being formed and sides are being chosen. Instead of picking up some new friends and allies, we are instead making enemies with those who do not hold the same beliefs. At th beginning of the pandemic, there was a sense of unity, and now a deepening divide. Instead of 'we are stronger together' there is a rise of 'each to their own' or even worse 'us against them'.
Now, this is not a true representation of the whole. There are still powerful communities being built, tremendous effort to implement social and personal support, and there are still beautiful people out there every day showing compassion and kindness. This is just a reminder that in challenging times, being kind can seem like the least important thing to do - but in fact, it is the only way through!
Kindness motivates, persuades, incentivates and kindness is contagious.
For too long, kindness has been seen as a weakness when it is indeed a tremendous strength. It builds respect, builds trust, builds relationships, builds community and loyalty. With those qualities, you have one powerful army, and an army is much more powerful than any individual.
Kindness brings us together, and only when we unite together can we change the world, but it starts first at home. It starts first within. As we have seen, kindness is harder when times are tough. When the situation isn't favorable, but that is when it is the most crucial.
I would take a wild guess to say that many of us aren't very kind or patient with ourselves most of the time. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect, we judge ourselves harshly and are our own worse critic. We tend to wash over the good qualities and focus on the flaws. We punish ourselves when we don't meet our inner expectations. Now, if this is how we treat ourselves regularly - don't you think we would be more likely to treat others this way? If our habit is to judge and see the flaws within ourselves, would this not be the lens in which we see the world? And if we have little compassion for ourselves, perhaps we have less capacity to hold compassion for others.
Of course, many people are unkind to themselves but still kind to others. It's not that we would be incapable of such things, but maybe it isn't as authentic or as unconditional. Maybe we are just being kind as it is expected of us, the right thing to do - not because it is coming from a true place of compassion, connection and empathy. When our kind deeds come from a true place of the heart, it not only has an impact on the other, but it has incredible benefits for ourselves as well.
Dr. David Hamilton a physicist and kindness expert says, kindness makes us happier as our brain releases chemicals that increase dopamine and we become full of positive feelings. Acts of kindness reduce the stress hormone cortisole. We also produce oxytocin in the brain and body which increases nitric oxide, reducing blood pressure, reduces inflammation in our cardio vascular system and slows aging. In a time where our health is truly our wealth, it pays to be kind.
We can first start by showing ourselves a bit more compassion and patience, becoming our own cheerleader and acknowledging our achievements. We are very good at being our own critic, but we need to be our own advocate. Practice self care so that our cups are full. How do we expect to serve from an empty cup? The more we listen and tend to our needs, the better we understand how to do so for others. Forgiving ourselves for our past mistakes. We are human and part of being human is to mess up from time to time. That is all part of the process of learning and growing. There is no such thing as perfection - everything is practice.
Have some self-respect. Value yourself for who you are, your uniqueness, your qualities, your strengths. Let go of comparison. They are not you and you will never be them, and nothing is what it seems. Don't just look at the greener grass on the otherside of the fence, get busy watering and tending to your own. Connect to your heart. You are love. When we remember this, how can we be anything else but kind?
When we are practicing kindness towards ourselves, we feel better, we are happier and we are better at relating with others. Kindness spreads. A kind deed to ourselves means we are more likely to be kind to others and they in turn will pass that kindness on again. Kindness is an opportunity to make a difference, within ourselves and within the world. So choose kindness. Again and agian, and most importantly when it seems like the hardest thing to do, be kind. The world needs more kindness right now.