Kindness. The quality of being caring, friendly, and generous. A kind act. According to the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, that is the definition of kindness.
I believe that kindness is at the heart of loving oneself, of making people happy and making the world a more peaceful place to live. There is a warmth that fills one’s heart when you do something for someone, especially when that person is not expecting it. There is a genuine feeling of love and appreciation when someone takes you into consideration and does something for you, without expectation of payback somewhere down the road. When someone is kind to you or when you are genuinely kind to others, you instantly feel better about your self, your life and the world. Imagine a world where the first quality that is valued above all others is kindness; a society where people are caring, friendly and generous.
Seems so simple really. An easy solution to the world’s problems. Just be kind.
So why do we struggle to be kind to one another? Why do we need to have “Act of Kindness” day? Why do we need to have it explained to us that if we are kind to others, others will be kind to you? Where have we missed the lesson that we like it when people are kind to us, so we are kind in return? Why do we need to “learn” a quality such as kindness?
And honestly, I am trying really hard not to be overtly sarcastic and caustic about this, but admittedly, this is a sore spot for me. In the last couple of years, “Random Act of Kindness Week” has been introduced into the school system. I am a person who is truly kind to the core, and I am all about kindness, but “Random Act of Kindness” week invokes a deep anger within me. I have surveyed every class that I have about whether they prefer people to be kind to them or mean to them. An Overwhelming Majority – 100% – responded that they prefer people who are kind to them versus mean to them. 100%. I have never had a person, not student or adult, say they prefer acts of meanness over acts of kindness.
So this could be faulty logic on my part, math not being a strong suit, but if 100% of the people surveyed prefer people to be kind to them, then presumably, kindness is a quality they value. If kindness is a quality they value, then logically, they should act kind to others. No teaching required. No days or weeks needed to be dedicated to kindness.
So why is it then that kindness is not a quality we aspire towards? Why is kindness not a quality that we value in our society and our culture? I believe it is because we value money over all else. We have learned that if you are kind you will be taken advantage of, walked over, treated like the proverbial welcome mat. In the world of work, it is a cut-throat environment where you lie to get what you want, where you hold your cards close and you cut yourself off from your feelings or you’ll never get anywhere in life. We value a system where the strong survive and the weak, in other words, the kind, are used and abused. We promote the intellect versus the heart. We care more about the bottom line than we do about people and the environment.
As adults we wonder why “kids today” are spoiled and entitled. As adults we need to look in the mirror at our behaviour and our words because kids today have learned from the adults around them that kindness doesn’t pay. Kids are learning that adults will complain about the lack of kindness, and in the next breath say something mean about a friend, neighbour or collegue. We are modeling for children that if you are kind to someone they owe you, or if they are kind to you, expect that you’ll have to pay something back.
Does it make me sad that kindness is not valued by our society to the degree that it has become a “special day?” Yes. Do I believe it is possible to change our psyche to one that values kindness? Yes. One kind act at a time.
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