Kindness makes the world go round
Reflections on being kind by an “older person”
I’ve been thinking about kindness a lot in the past year. Kindness to myself and kindness to others. Here is an article I wrote after a presentation I did on the topic of self compassion in June this year.
I’ve got some further thoughts on it that I’d like to share with you.
I think our society is not geared for kindness. We are urged to soldier on, to get stuck into things and to “Get Shit Done”. That attitude doesn’t encourage being kind to ourselves or to each other. That attitude makes us overwhelmed. Social media is rampant with people being unkind (in spite of the inspirational quotes all over Facebook). Road rage is prevalent and anyone we don’t agree with or is different is cut down by screaming headlines in newspapers and other media.
I’m 57, and maybe it’s time for me to realise that I have become a typical older person who believes we are all going to hell in a handbasket, the way the older persons did when I was 16. Maybe so, or maybe the older persons of my youth also had a point worth listening to.
Bull in a china shop
The thing is, I haven’t practised kindness very much myself in the past 57 years. I’m known as a bit of a ‘bull in a china shop’, I can be loud and obnoxious, quick to judge and I can be cutting and dismissive at times. But I think it’s time for me to change. The challenge came home to me again, today at lunch. I was talking with a very nice person about various people we both know. Some of those are competitors of mine, and I noticed how difficult I found it not to say unkind things about those competitors. I even found it hard to be nothing but kind about people we spoke about who are no competitors of mine. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t really bagging anyone, more like gossiping really, but it was definitely not kind. I noticed myself doing it, but found it really challenging to avoid. It’s so easy to gossip, it’s so easy to make fun of others, it’s so easy to belittle others. It makes for easy conversation.
And it’s unkind.
I had another insight in relation to kindness in the past few months. I spent a lot of time with my mother in her last weeks on earth during July of this year. At some stage she was getting impatient and frustrated. She was ready to go, had been ready for a while and she couldn’t understand why she was still here. It was quite upsetting, because her last days and weeks in this life were at risk of being spoilt by her increasing frustration with not dying yet. I had several conversations with her at the time and at some stage I said to her: “Your death is going to happen when it happens, there is nothing you can do to speed it up, and being angry is certainly not going to make the process go faster, it’s just a waste of your last days” and I said: “How might you get to enjoy what there is, instead of getting frustrated and angry over what there isn’t?”
I impress myself
The question had a positive impact on my mother. She started enjoying her last weeks and she died content. But the question had a really important impact on myself as well (I do impress myself sometimes!). I suddenly thought: What a great question to ask myself in many situations in my life, the circumstances, the business, the people and the relationships… “How can I get to love person X for who he is rather than get irritated for who he isn’t?”
I’ve been asking myself this question a lot in the past weeks and I can feel that I am learning to become a little kinder. I think I only noticed my unkindness over lunch with my friend as a result of having been focusing on this question in the past weeks.
Here’s another way to use the question that might lead to greater kindness: “How can I enjoy my life for what there is instead of be frustrated with what there isn’t?”
Try and ponder that question every now and then for yourself and see what difference it might make for you.
There is a wonderful organisation called: Random Acts of Kindness in Australia. They have a website and a whole bunch of great resources including a one-page sheet with the facts about Kindness, download it here
Kindness is important, it makes the world we live in more liveable, and I absolutely believe we should learn to be kinder to each other and to ourselves.
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