Sunday, September 18, 2016

What Does It Mean to Be Kind?

Can you be nice without being kind? You know you have seen it, probably even done it. You did or said something just to be polite. Your being nice to them was unkind to you. For instance, You did something for someone without really being present with them, a handout perhaps, that was really easy, didn’t require much of yourself. Maybe you handed a dollar to a panhandler and hurried past them. Being kind would have required you step outside your comfort zone to make real human contact with that person – eye contact, a greeting, maybe even a brief conversation with the human being they are. The dollar is nice. The human contact is kind. Are you kind or are you just nice?

Nothing wrong with being nice, of course. It is easy. And sometimes it is greatly appreciated even though you didn’t invest much of yourself in it. What is a problem, however, is when your being nice when it is done because you believe other people’s needs and feelings are more important than your own. When you value others’ feelings more than your own you don’t feel good about yourself and it makes it hard to take the time or effort to be good to someone else. Like with co-dependency you end up feeling powerless, unloved, worthless or depressed.

Of course, being nice and being kind can coexist. But too often we do something nice and think we have fulfilled our responsibility to the other members of the human tribe. But have we been present to the other? Have we invested anything of ourselves? You may intend to be kind, you offer assistance “if they ever need it.” But do you follow through and actually take the time and effort to understand the other’s situation and make a real difference? Kindness is an investment that goes beyond just the willingness to help.

All this has me taking a hard look at my “acts of kindness”. How often am I really only being nice? How might I go further and be truly kind? It is easy for me to get tangled in trying to sort this out. I’m basically a nice person, was raised to be nice. So when have I gone the next step and been kind? I used to pack an extra bag lunch once a week to give to a panhandler who was almost always on the corner of the highway exit that I passed on my way to do my volunteer job. I never made an opportunity to get to know him or learn how he got to the point of begging. So at what point did I move into kindness from being nice?

As I look at it now I don’t think I did make it an act of kindness, not really. I invested a little time and effort, but not much of myself. It was a little out of my comfort zone to make any contact with a homeless panhandler, though. So what do you think?

Keep an eye out for kindness as you move through your week. What do you see others do that you think is kind? I like sharing those kinds of things on social media. I subscribe to the Good News Network and share various posts on FaceBook. I also share Random Acts of Kindness. Why do I bother with that? Because the more kindness we see the more kindness we are likely to feel and do. And sharing that encourages others to be kind.

Think about how Pay It Forward has worked. Kindness is a way to pay it forward. Pass it on.

[I’m reading A Short Course in Kindness by Margot Silk Forrest. Have any of you read it? Much of what I’m posting is based on her book as it applies to my life.]

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