Listen, if someone were to tell me 5 years ago that I would be writing about the importance of kindness, I would probably think it was assigned to me as a lesson I needed to learn for being unkind to someone... (this was actually an experience I had way back in elementary school). For the most part of my life, I did not behave like a kind person. Although my heart has always been loving at its core, my ego was ruthless and the unhealed parts of me were oozing out of me in the form of uncool actions. There was so much turmoil going on at home that I kept bottled inside of me so my peers and the world would never have to find out how bad things truly were. Since I never was able to express the pain I was dealing with in a healthy way, I unconsciously expressed it through anger, judgement, and apathy. It was not until I took a real good look in the mirror and got clear on two major things that I began to change. The first question I answered was, "What do I want?" The answer I got back was simple: Love. Second, I answered the question, "Who am I?" Which I decided that I am a confident, powerful, and beautiful woman. Yes I am. I realized, as humans, we are not innately bad, our behaviors are just clouded and driven by fear. This brings me to my first principle of kindness:
1. Be kind, especially to those who are not
This is the most important aspect of kindness in our world today. People only have the capacity to give what is within. When someone behaves unkindly, you best believe the same words and behaviors they give to the world, they give to themselves when no one is looking. The wars we start are a reflection of the internal battles we can't win against ourselves. Be EXTRA kind to those who are not. People's behaviors are only a reflection of their socialization and experiences; not everyone always has access to tools or outlets that will help redirect their actions in a healthy manner. Now this doesn’t give anyone an excuse to treat you badly, but if you respond with kindness you have the power to give them what they are lacking in their lives. One act of kindness can create a ripple effect and dramatically change the trajectory our world is headed.
Second, kind people are not always going to tell you exactly what you want to hear. Kindness comes from the core of a good-hearted person, while being nice is just about politeness. This brings me to my second principle:
2. Kind vs. Nice
Kind and nice: these words are not interchangeable. Being nice is when you are polite and you treat someone well. It is typically a way for people to protect their image and feel good about themselves. As we grow up, we are taught to say "please" and "thank you" because it's the polite thing to do. It's our parents way of ensuring they upkeep their image by raising well-behaved children and by teaching us how to protect our own image. Being kind, however, is when you truly care about someone and show it. It comes from the genuine, loving space in your heart. You can absolutely be nice to someone while being unkind, and you can be kind to someone while not coming off so nice. When you are being nice to someone while being unkind, the situation might sound like the common friendly salutation, “Hi, how are you?” simply because this is a cliche way to greet a person and not because you actually care to know how they are. When you are coming from a place of kindness and seeming not so nice, it is typically in the form of having an intervention with someone you care about and telling them something they don’t want to hear. This is because you genuinely care and want to see them be their best. While there is nothing wrong with being nice, it is important to understand this distinction in society so you can lead with a kind heart. You don't always have to be nice, and I would argue you shouldn't always be nice, but you can always be kind.
Lastly, it is crucial to understand that being kind is something that you should choose for your own sake. If you think your kindness is only meaningful when it's reciprocated, then you will quickly be disappointed and give up on your efforts. The world around you is out of your control, but you always have power over yourself.
3. Be kind without expectation
This one is simple, be kind, period. It is very common for people to show kindness conditionally. We often give with hopes to receive something back. When we do anything kind, we automatically expect at least a "thank you" in return, and we typically do. But what about the times we don't? Has your kindness now been wasted? The answer is absolutely not. Your kindness tank is only replenished by being kind. This is that paradox where the more you give, the more you receive. By making the choice to do something for someone else, you are generating an energy within your heart, mind, and soul that you directly benefit from along with the world around you, a true win-win situation.
In a world full of darkness, choose to be the light. This simple concept has the power to change your inner and outer world.