How To Be Kind
Being kind is a way of living that keeps giving long after the kind thoughts, words, and actions have taken place. Kindness is a force without force, and it goes well beyond manners to the very heart of how people respect and treat one another.
Being kind is a vital way of making our own lives, and the lives of others, meaningful. Being kind allows us to communicate better with others, to be more self-compassionate, and to be a positive force in other people’s lives. Kindness has its true source deep within you, and while some people are innately kind, it’s something that everyone can cultivate by choice. In this article, you’ll find a few initial suggestions to help you further develop kindness in your life.
1. Understand what kindness is and is not. At its most basic, kindness is about caring genuinely for others around you, wanting the best for them, and recognizing in them the same wants, needs, aspirations, and even fears that you have too. Kindness is warm, resilient, patient, trusting, loyal, and grateful. Piero Ferrucci sees kindness as being about “making less effort” because it frees us from getting knotted up in negative attitudes and feelings such as resentment, jealousy, suspicion, and manipulation. Ultimately, kindness is deep caring for all beings.
2.Be kind to yourself. Many people make the error of trying to be kind to others while not focusing on being kind to themselves. Some of this can stem from not liking aspects of yourself, but more often than not, it’s sourced in the inability to know yourself better. And unfortunately, when you don’t feel rock solid within yourself, your kindness to others risks falling into the deluded types of kindness described in the previous step. Or, it can lead to burn-out and disillusionment because you’ve put everyone else first. Self-knowledge allows you to see what causes you pain and conflict, and enables you to embrace your contradictions and inconsistencies. Self-knowledge allows the space to work on things about yourself that you’re not happy with. In turn, self-knowledge helps to prevent you from projecting your negative aspects onto other people, thereby empowering you to treat other people with love and kindness.
3. Be present. The greatest gift of kindness to another person is to be in the moment in their presence, to be listening with care, and to be genuinely attentive to them.
4. Be happy, joyful, and grateful. These emotions rest at the heart of kindness, allowing you to see the good in others and the world, enabling you to press through the challenges, despair, and cruelty you witness and experience, continuously restoring your sense of faith in humanity. Maintaining an optimistic attitude ensures that acts of kindness are committed with genuine joy and cheerfulness rather than with reluctance or out of a sense of duty or service. And keeping your sense of humor ensures that you don’t take yourself too seriously and take life’s contradictory and contrary moments with good faith.
5. Reflect on the kindness of other people. Think about the truly kind people in your life and how they make you feel. Do you carry their warm glow around in your heart every time you think of them? It is likely that you do because kindness lingers, warming you even when the hardest challenges face you. When other people find a way to love you for who you are, it’s impossible to forget such trust and confirmation of worthiness, and their kindness lives on forever.
6. Cultivate kindness for the good of your own health. Improved psychological health and happiness comes from thinking more positively, and kindness is a positive mental state. While kindness is about giving and being open to others, giving kindness returns a sense of well-being and connectedness to us that improves our own mental state and health.
7. Practice the kindness effect. Stephanie Dowrick recommends that we practice what she calls the “kindness effect”. She says that this requires us to allow ourselves the freedom to be kind for the sake of other people and for ourselves. In reaching to others, she confirms that it’s impossible to be kind to others without this kindness also reflecting back on ourselves, increasing our connection with the world, and decreasing our personal problems.
8.Expand your circle of kindness. It can be very easy to be kind when we’re unconsciously doing what Stephanie Dowrick terms “patronizing kindness”. This refers to kindness given to those people we feel are truly in need (the sick, the poor, the vulnerable, and those who align with our own ideals). Being kind to people close to us, emotionally (like family or friends) or in other ways (from the same country, of the same color, gender etc.), is also easier than being kind to those the philosopher Hegel called “the other”. The trouble with curtailing it to “convenient” cases is that we fail to recognize that we need to be kind to everyone, no matter who they are, their level of wealth or fortune, their values and beliefs, their behavior and attitudes, their place of origin, their likeness to ourselves, etc. By choosing to be kind only to those we feel are deserving of kindness, we are unleashing our own biases and judgment, and only practicing conditional kindness. Real kindness encompasses all beings and while the challenges you’ll face when trying to put this broader notion of kindness into practice will sometimes be trying, you’ll never stop learning about the depths of your ability to be truly kind.
9. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. Attributed to Plato, this saying is a recognition that everyone is undergoing some challenge or other in their lives and that sometimes, it’s all too easy for us to lose sight of that when embroiled in our own problems or anger against them. Before committing an action that might impact another person negatively, ask yourself a simple question: “Is this kind?”. If you cannot answer this in the affirmative, this is a reminder to change your action and approach immediately.
10. “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” These are the words once said by Princess Diana. The practice of random acts of kindness is alive and well as a conscious effort to spread more kindness; there are even groups that have established themselves to perform this essential civic duty!
11. Be polite. Although being polite is not an indication of kindness in itself, genuine politeness demonstrates your respect for those you’re interacting with. Being polite is the kind way of getting people’s attention and putting your point across. Some simple ways to do this include:
12. Show kindness through loving animals and the living world. Loving animals and caring for pets is kindness in action. Nothing compels you to care about beings of another species, especially in a day and age where the tools of human domination are so powerful. And yet, the very act of loving an animal and respecting the animal for its own value is an expression of deep kindness. As well, being kind to the world that sustains and nurtures us is sensible as well as kind, ensuring that we don’t poison the very elements that assure us a healthy life.
13. Transform your life. Changing how you live and how you view the world might seem daunting. But take a note of Aldous Huxley’s prescription for transforming your life: “People often ask me what is the most effective technique for transforming their life. It is a little embarrassing that after years and years of research and experimentation, I have to say that the best answer is–just be a little kinder.” Take Huxley’s many years of research to heart and allow kindness to transform your life, to transcend all feelings and actions of aggression, hate, despising, anger, fear, and self-deprecation, and to restore strength worn away by despair.
- Don’t think only of the short term; the kind acts you perform today may teach someone to do kind acts for others, and they’ll learn from your example as the recipient of your kindness. Moreover, kindness tends to reverberate well beyond its initial point of contact; many people are surprised to find out many years later how one act of kindness touched a person to the point of inspiring them to do something amazing, or to believe in themselves more. Keep in mind that kindness lives on.
- Watch the French film Amélie for kindness inspiration.
- You might not like everyone and that’s normal; even the nicest people on earth get annoyed! Just continue being polite nonetheless.
- When someone drops something, pick it up for them. Or you can even offer to pick it up together, no matter the size!
- If someone you do not know smiles at you, don’t hesitate to smile back; it’s a kind gesture.
- Kindness is free, so share it with everyone, every day. Offer to pet-sit when you know a friend is going on vacation. If you know a neighbor is sick, ask them if they need groceries when you go grocery shopping. Stop and talk to someone who is lonely, share a cup of coffee and pay their bill too.
- Help, even if you aren’t asked; see if anyone needs help and help them without prompting. It can be a simple thing, to help someone with something they seem to have difficulties with, even if they insist they’re fine. Whenever you can, try to help someone else. It could be at their work, with their homework or about their relationships and more. If someone asks you something, be open-minded and don’t immediately dismiss them, try to be as helpful as you can. Even if you don’t do what they asked, you can at least suggest another to possibly aid them.
- Buy a packet of nuts and a few chocolates from the supermarket and give them to a homeless person.
- Visit an old-age home and spend an hour or so playing cards with someone who doesn’t get many visitors.
- Carry a heavy suitcase for someone who looks like they’re struggling.
- Offer your seat on the train or bus to someone else, even if the person is younger or fitter.
- Make a dinner for a friend who is going through rough times.
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