Section 2: INCREASING THE GOODNESS IN OUR LIVES
Choosing Caring over Criticizing
Showing kindness seems to be a disappearing skill these days. This is especially true when it comes to information and messages that fly though the internet each day…hurtful words, inconsiderate thoughts, and opinions that seem to only reflect negative sentiments. This lesson is intended to remind us of the importance of kindness and motivate us to show more of it each day.
Unexpected kindness is the most powerful,
least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.
It seems like such a simple thing: being kind to those around us. You would think that such conduct would come naturally, and we wouldn’t have to be reminded about it. After all, we’re taught to be nice from a very early age.
Yet “playing nicely” doesn’t seem to be sticking with us these days. We appear to be getting worse in this regard, becoming less kind to each other instead of more so. We witness politicians degrading one another. We hear of students bullying others at school. We see comments on social media where people are name calling and making personal attacks on the thoughts of others. And what about you and me? We can be slow to own up to our own faults, but often quick to announce the faults of others. Samuel Johnson, the English author, reminded us that we can choose to do otherwise with these words:
Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.
But Kindness Is Declining
Why Is This Happening?
Why does being critical of others seem to be increasing? One reason is that we are being conditioned to act this way by the many examples of unkind conduct we witness on the internet and in the news each day. Another reason, and possibly a bigger one, is because pointing out the faults of others gives us a feeling of superiority. For some reason, we think we are better and “in the know” when we say something unkind about another person.
If we would focus on fixing ourselves and shaping up our own lives instead of pointing out where others fall short, we would make the world a much better place and be much happier while doing so. No matter what others are doing, we can be kind if we choose to. Roy T. Bennett, author of The Light in the Heart, passed along this reason for being kind to others:
Treat everyone with politeness and kindness,
not because they are nice, but because YOU are.
Some Things to Remember About Kindness
Here are a few things we should all remember regarding kindness:
Our role in life is not to criticize others, but to accept them as they are.
Even when we disagree, we should always do so in a respectful way. We accomplish so much more when we conduct ourselves in a way that clearly shows we care about the other person. No special exercise or diet is required to perform this feat . . . it’s simply a choice that you and I can make.
We are not always right about what we think or say.
Seldom do we have all the facts or understand all the circumstances. As a result, seldom are we completely correct. Therefore, while we have our views and others have theirs, we can always treat others in a polite, respectful, and kind way. We can improve our life experiences by reaching out to people, not by lashing out at them.
We can’t see what someone is feeling or thinking.
We don’t know what the other person may be going through, or how they may be reacting to circumstances in their own life. Therefore, we must be careful not to overreact to someone’s bad moments, but rather to be a living example to all around us of how to treat other people in a kind and respectful way.
If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.
I can’t begin to count the number of times my grandmother said that very statement to me, always in a loving way. She wanted me to be kind and respectful to others, and she would want you to be so as well. Granny was the best example of living with kindness I have ever known.
If your life is ever going to have a positive impact on others, you have to choose to replace judgmental behavior with acts of kindness. Actor Josh Radnor reminded us how to be kind:
It’s not our job to play judge and jury,
to determine who is worthy of our kindness and who is not.
We just need to be kind, unconditionally and without ulterior motive,
. . . especially when we’d prefer not to be.
Have you experienced times when others were unkind to you?
How did it make you feel?
What can you do to show more kindness to those you encounter each day?
Do you think that showing more kindness will help you as well?
Was there a time when it was very hard for you to be kind to someone?
Was it because they were being unkind to you or to other people you care about?