And started teaching myself the true meaning of kindness
We often call out to the world to be kind. You can find these messages on social media, painted on walls, and on t-shirts. The irony is that sometimes we even raise our voices to each other demanding the other person to be kind. Demanding kindness is not going to work.
Kindness is often the opposite of convenience. Kindness may mean you have to do the hard thing. You may have had to apologize after an outburst. You may have had to say thank you for constructive (or worse unconstructive) criticism. Instead of asking each other to be kind, let us consider start teaching how to be kind.
In order to be kind, we have to lead by example.
Recognize Your Own Roadblocks to Being Kind
Being kind involves healing within first. You need to take the time to get to know your triggers and what happened before, during, and after a situation where you were unkind, angry, or upset. A trigger of mine is being hungry so I always carry around a snack if I am away from the house for a long time. Recognizing and working on your own triggers can be uncomfortable. I only suggest working on your triggers when you are ready.
Kindness isn’t always about being polite and showing good manners. True kindness can mean recognizing when you make a mistake and make an honest effort to do better.
I once raised my voice at my daughter’s school therapist because I was triggered during an unexpected phone call to discuss my daughter’s upcoming Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. I was so tense about the idea of my daughter going into a mainstream kindergarten with her significant speech and language delays that I snapped when my daughter’s therapist called during an inconvenient time. I had to call her later and apologize when I was calm and ready to talk.
“I sat with my anger long enough until she told me her real name was grief.” — Unknown.
Anger and grief are often connected. Once I realized that connection, I became more empathic to my angry self and worked on healing that part of me.
What Being Kind Can Look Like:
Being kind can mean giving a safe space to discuss differing opinions.
Kindness can mean being present for someone. Just showing up for someone with no ulterior motive.
Being kind can mean not getting the last word, even if you know you are right.
Kindness can involve doing the hard thing and getting very little or no credit for it.
Kindness can mean forgiving yourself.
Remember that you can be kind and still have boundaries. Just be honest and open about what those boundaries are.
Change Your Perspective When Someone is Unkind.
After learning about trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), I now see things differently when someone is unkind. When someone is being defensive or difficult, I wonder what has happened in this person’s life to build such a wall.
Take some time to reevaluate the people who you have often considered to be your archnemesis. Were they really villains?
My reaction now when someone is unkind is empathy. I know what it is like to experience trauma, and I know what it is like to feel like everyone is against you. When I was a more difficult person, it had more to do with me and how I felt about myself than how I felt about the other person.
We are human, we are meant to make mistakes. We are meant to occasionally put our foot in our mouth, to fail sometimes, and we are meant to get back up and try better next time.
Kindness is not all rainbows with people holding hands singing together in unison. Being kind can be rough. It can involve getting uncomfortable and doing the hard thing. Remember though that being kind is worth all the work in the end.