Sometimes I think we should teach people-skills in the public schools as a way to create a population of peacemakers. And kindness would solve a lot of problems kids face every day. What if kindness was encouraged in the classroom. Bullies would be identified immediately and dealt with in an entirely different way. And if kids grow up with kindness as a most-wanted trait we'd have a very different world.
Anyway, the rest of us can learn to be more kind and to pass that on. Here are ten ways to be kind:
- Think small. Look for the little ways to be kind. They all count. Look for small things you can do, think, or say that are kind. This creates a wave of kindness moving out and beyond you. It is amazing sometimes the impact of a kind word where it is needed.
- Follow the Better-Than-Golden-Rule. Do unto others what they would have you do unto them. Do what they need rather than what we think they need. To be truly helpful you must do what they most need. You may think you know what they need, but is it really what they most need? You can only know if you ask. Giving someone food when they really most need gas money to look for work might be nice, but it isn't very helpful.
- Listen. Often what people need most is someone to actually listen. Just listen, without judgement or advice or problem-solving. In this "information age" we seldom get heard. Our feelings, or confusion, our distress get rushed past in the effort to fix the situation and move on. We need the validation of being heard. Hold your opinion until it is asked for. Just be fully present with that person - family, friend, or stranger - and you are being the most kind you can be.
- Accept the kindness of others. This can be hard for many of us. We avoid appearing vulnerable or needy. But it is a great kindness to accept help from others rather than brushing it off or rejecting it. Refusing someone's kindness stops the flow of kindness into the world. To keep it going we must be able to both give and receive kindness, to let it flow through us. Be kind and say "Thank You", with meaning.
- Talk about your hard stuff. This one can be risky. But kindness requires courage. So when it is appropriate, share your own dark times with others. Let them know that you have been through hard times and come out o.k. on the other side. This gives people validation that they are not alone and encourages them to make it through their hard time. One of the most powerful parts of recovery from abuse comes from hearing that others have been there and have become stronger for it. And talking about your own difficulties helps you validate your own journey, too.
- Do it. When action is called for, act! While we may have insight, even empathy, if we don't act on it, kindness doesn't happen. Action requires your choice, sense of self, and courage. Yes, sometimes kindness requires that we move out of our comfort zone to help someone in need. And that is when true kindness can happen. But we must act on it. Do the thing that needs to be done.
- Be There. Companionship is a gift than can be the most needed kindness. Sometimes what is most needed and appreciated it to have someone to share the moments, to be fully present without rushing, without judging, without intruding in any way. To simply be there for someone by sharing the moments, quietly making human contact without any demands for them to respond in any way at all. Sometimes just a touch to show you are with them is enough to show that you care and take the time to be with them.
- Encourage laughter. I'm not suggesting you make light of the person's situation. But laughter can be a great gift when it come after sharing personal contact. It can give them a break from their troubles, even for just a moment. It feels good. Kindness can make you laugh with surprise and joy. Laughter can make both the giver and receiver of kindness feel better about yourselves and the world.
- Be encouraging. It is kindness to have faith in others when they don't have faith in themselves. You know how those inner voices can tell you that you can't do something, that you'll never reach your goals, etc. Other people experiences the same thing. And your completely confident encouraging words can counteract those inner voices and help someone keep working toward their goals when they are struggling. Your confidence in them is contagious.
- Be kind to yourself. This may be the hardest thing for you to do. But it is vital. Because if you can respect and care for your own needs, you can respect and care for the needs of others. If you only care for others you will eventually be unable to care for anyone. If you only give, you will eventually give out and begin to resent the needs of others as draining you and leaving yu feeling empty. Spend some time paying attention to your needs - physical, emotional, spiritual. Notice your daily needs for rest, regular nutrition, play, solitude,exercise, creativity. Consider what renews and replenishes you and if you are doing those things. Other than sleep, most don't require large amounts of time. They can be built into your day easily. And they can make it possible for you to continue being of service to others.
If you do these things, and others you create yourself, you can help change the world. Kindness is contagious. And the forces of the universe that want to heal and create peace will help you. Join the revolution of kindness and peace.
I'd really like to hear what ways you know to be kind. Please share in the comments to extend our list of Ways to Be Kind.
*Much of this is taken from A Short Course in Kindness by Margot Silk Forrest. I recommend you read her book.