I was all set to write about fun “K” words like kooky and knightly today, but I think I’d rather focus on kindness. Since we’re talking about feelings, I thought a bit about the difference between feeling kindly and showing kindness. Here’s my question (feel free to chime in). Is it possible to act with kindness when you’re not feeling kindly? I mean, is an action kind in and off itself, or should there be an underlying motivation that also reflects kindness. For example, if you feed a starving child, is the action “kind” even if your motivation is a feeling of guilt?
Putting aside philosophy for a second, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we treat each other. My daughter came home from school yesterday crying because she and her best friend had a fight. She’s six. I calmed her down, assured her that everything would be OK and she was back to her cheerful self before long. But it made me think of my own childhood, and how unkind kids (and adults) can be to one another. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.
When I was in third grade, one of my best friends had cystic fibrosis. She was scrawny and couldn’t participate in much physical activity. She came from an abusive and neglectful home, and she was teased and bullied at school. But she was a kind person, despite all the things that might have made her otherwise. In her teens, she was finally taken out of her abusive home and placed with a foster family who loved her and she thrived. Kindness helps and heals. When we were both 25, my friend died from complications related to her condition. She left behind a little girl and at times like these, I can’t help but hope that the world is being kind to that little girl who has already lost so much.
A few more stories to get you (and me) thinking about kindness, both the feeling and the state of being. I spend a lot of time on social media, and I think it an be quite useful. It keeps me connected to people I don’t have a chance to see often. It allows me to communicate with my readers and to promote the work I’m doing. Yay! BUT, as we all know, social media can also be a platform for negative and abusive behavior. The things that people say to each other over the Internet are appallingly unkind sometimes. I just watched a conversation go down between a friend and her ex that was so disconcerting that I had to just stop reading. Despites my friend’s attempts to de-escalate the situation, the ex is bound and determined to be nasty. I wonder if he would be so unkind in person? That’s the danger of social media. We don’t have to look at or even hear the person we’re insulting, so we’re detached from their reactions to what we say. How can we expect to be empathetic when we can’t exercise our ability to read body language and social cues?
And then, there’s the custody battle. A very close friend is currently entrenched in the most horrible custody battle I’ve ever seen. Emotions are running so high on both sides, and it’s hard to be kind when you’re being hurt. As a divorced mother, I know what it means to face the reality of not having your kids 100% of the time. As I try to help my friend cope with the situation, I find myself praying for an infusion of kindly feeling so that these two people who’ve loved each other and share a child, can begin to heal and to work together to give her the best possible life.
So, thinking about all of this makes me wonder, what would happen if we all just tried to be a little bit kinder everyday? And not just act with kindness, but actually feel kindly toward other people, even those who annoy or infuriate us. I truly believe this exercise starts and ends with empathy. When we can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we can understand that person just a little bit more and I think that understanding breeds kindness. What do you think?
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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