When I started thinking about kindness for this post, I thought I would start with a definition because you need to be clear what you are talking about, right? However, when I started thinking about it and looking at the various definitions that are out there, I realised that it’s not so clear cut. We may have an understanding of what kindness is, when we have received it and have a sense of how it makes us feel when we do. But there is also the feeling we get when we do something kind.
One dictionary definition of kindness suggests that ‘kindness is the quality of being gentle, caring and helpful’ (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/)
I personally find this to be a little bit too passive. It suggests that the traits of being gentle and caring can mean we are being kind. The word helpful is the only one which is active. That struck me; being kind is about action, not feeling. I can care about someone, but without acting upon it, I’m not necessarily being kind to them.
I imagine that when we think about kindness, we think about doing something for other people; a giving of something of ours, be it time, an object, an act. But I wonder how much we reserve kindness for others rather than ourselves? I wonder if we speak to others in the same way we speak to ourselves? I suspect that a lot of the time the way we speak to ourselves is significantly harsher and more critical than the way we speak to others.
Kindness can be as much about choosing to do something as choosing not to. There may be a number of reasons why we might feel compelled to run ourselves into the ground, but kindness doesn’t mean self-sacrifice. What good are we to ourselves or others if we are running on empty? I wonder what difference it might make if we are as attentive to our own needs as we might be to others, what would that give us?
One thing is clear; kindness is a choice. If we can choose to be kind to others, then we can choose to be kind to ourselves. We can notice the critical voice when we make a mistake and think of a positive counter to it. We can listen to ourselves and make a conscious effort to do something that helps us re-fill when we feel empty; this could be going for a walk, spending time with a friend or family, switching the phone off for an evening and watching a film. Putting aside some time to attend to our needs.
Life can be hard going, but we are important. We can choose kindness.