I find myself struggling with the term kindness. I understand that there is a distinct difference between being nice and being kind. Nice has all the advantage of manners. Anyone who has studied manners knows that it includes the great art of taking one down a peg or two in the nicest possible way. Kindness on the other hand presumes a benevolent intent.
It is not so much that I find myself incapable of being considerate. Many of my skills including scheduling and delegating are dependent on being considerate of the needs and abilities of others. It is just that I have been taught to prioritize efficiency and expedience over thoughtfulness. My knee jerk reaction is not to be kind, it is to cut to the quick. I tend to bruise feelings in getting to the heart of the matter.
Unfortunately I also tend to associate kindness with pandering. Is it really a kindness to buy a smoker a pack of cigarettes when they are broke? Is taking a hurt child to get ice cream after bandaging the boo-boo being kind? Is it kind to let someone continue to make the same error, getting themselves deeper into trouble at work?
In terms of correcting someone kindly, I am given to understand that if they can fix it right now it is kind to bring attention to the problem. So letting someone know they are dragging toilet paper on their shoes from the bathroom is kind. Bringing attention to a problem that is not immediately fixable, like someone’s weight, is unkind.
But what about the you did it once and it’s done, but you might not want to do it again problem. Is “I don’t know if you are aware that _____ is considered to be an offensive term and you might not want to use it again” a kindness or an imposition? These are a sticky mess for me. I don’t want to condone behaviors I don’t like, but I also don’t want to be the rules or PC police. But the entirely efficient, “that’s not appropriate, fix it” does not win me personality points.
Still harder is trying to apply kindness to myself. This is one of the biggest blocks for me in terms of my personal health. I’m not supposed to “beat myself up” if I don’t get to the club or I’m too worn out from the day to finish the dishes, or I can’t carry the laundry up the stairs. But I’m also not supposed to let myself slide into complacency because of those very same things.
When I want a chocolate brownie, really want it. I’ve been thinking about it for days and I still want it. No really, not a piece of chocolate or a nice treat, I want a chocolate brownie. Is it a kindness to get the brownie? How about going to exercise? Is it kinder to make myself just get out the door and go or to allow that maybe taking a nap is really better for me today?
I don’t expect to reach any conclusions or come to a great insight today. As much as your comments may help, I don’t expect anyone has a quick, easy, always applicable solution to the problem. I even suspect that I may revisit this issue several times in future blogs. In the meantime I suppose all I can do is test the waters and make a conscious effort. I see what works and what doesn’t. Maybe I’ll find a way through that “you might not want to do that again” problem.
I just hope that the people in my life are willing and able to model kindness, at least in terms of my halting and clumsy efforts to achieve it. It really would help, on the off chance you notice, to let me know when I succeed in being kind. In fact that sort of direct feedback would be a great kindness.