In the world, regardless of circumstance, you are free to choose. Choose to be kind.
Some mistake kindness for weakness. I don’t know why. It requires little from us to be unkind. It takes no discipline or self-control to be impatient, harsh, or even nasty. While being kind in the face of adversity takes all those things. It takes fortitude and strength. It proves you are respecting yourself and others.
There’s much to be said in favor of exercising kindness. Were it easy, more would do it. More would press in to find a way to incorporate it in all their transactions with others but also with themselves.
It’s often said, “You are your own worst critic.” If you look, you’ll see tons of articles and advice from all kinds telling you how to stop that. That’s always puzzled me a little, I confess. Who better to monitor us than the one who hears every word we say, every thought we think, every act we do? Why would we not monitor ourselves? How would we know what is worth keeping and what isn’t?
Don’t misunderstand. Our criticism of ourselves should be tempered. It should be constructive. It should be merciful and laced with grace. It should be constructive. Us helping ourselves to be our best person. We can’t do that if we are not willing to eye ourselves as objectively as possible and to honestly face what we find and assess it.
Yet there is a point where criticism becomes destructive, and that, I agree, we must stop. From a common-sense perspective, we know that like attracts like, so destructive behavior aimed at us or at others brings more destruction. That is not our objective nor our purpose. We want to be better not worse.
Some say in times of trouble or stress everyone is unkind. They use that as an excuse to do as they wish without consequence. Yet there are always consequences. It’s like when you meet someone. Later, they might not remember the specifics of that meeting, but they associate you with the way you made them feel during that meeting. That others recall vividly, and the associate sticks. A thought of you comes, and that feeling rides with it.
The same is said for your association with them. You’re at a gathering and approach someone you know. They refuse to acknowledge you, to even look at you. You stand there awkwardly for a minute, then turn away. That person was not kind or even civil. They had you on ignore, as if you didn’t exist. In the future, when you think of that person, what is your thought? It might be that you approached them in a friendly manner and were ignored. It might be that they were unkind, uncivil. Whatever your thought, I sincerely doubt it was positive or kind.
Kindness is a two-way street, but that doesn’t guarantee that when you are kind that kindness will be returned to you. It does guarantee that you won’t be ashamed of how you treated the other party.
We can’t control others, only ourselves. But especially in a hostile world it is important that we do what we can to change the tenor. We can’t insist others conduct themselves with civility and kindness. We can set the example and hope that they see the good in it.
So in a world where you control your thoughts and words and actions, be the change you seek. In a world where you are free to choose your thoughts and words and actions, choose to be kind.