Choosing To Be Kind

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
Henry James

It’s not popular to be kind. It’s seen as soft and, worse of all, it’s seen as a sign of weakness.

I’m only 22 years old, but the more I live, the more I realize how rare it is to come by simple acts of kindness. I’ve been ignored by passing strangers when I fell down on hard concrete. I’ve been told that I should be raped. I’ve been abused and used to the point of depression. And, I’ve been told that I was fat, ugly and useless many times. The prophetic truth is, the world is growing colder everyday. The part of my heart that chooses to focus on the unkindness of the world and the brokenness of my upbringing is like wet cement – so close to hardening. It whispers to me, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.  To survive is to step on other people as a climbing ladder to success. Cruelty is a strength. Kindness is a weakness.”

More difficult than hearing those words from my own heart is keeping myself from believing them. What I’ve noticed is that many people already do. It is because it is so rare that that’s why there is such a need in our homes, workplace and social circles for warmth. The world desperately needs kindness.

There have been times that I feel ashamed to say that I chose to be rude or unkind in a situation. There have also been times when I chose to be kind and to go above and beyond what is asked of me, and I know that the difference it makes in the world, even with the smallest acts of kindness, can change someone’s day drastically. What I have found in both situations is that it takes more courage to be kind than to be cruel.

As I was reflecting and writing this post, I wondered why people chose to be unkind and the times I’ve chosen to be unkind, too. What I know, at least for me, is that sometimes bitterness can overpower someone so much that the only release is to bring other people down to their misery too. They confuse hardness with courage, when hardness is just a defense they use because they’re hurting and vulnerable inside. What no one tells them is that some of the most courageous people in the world are those who choose to be kind in a world fallen ill with pride.

I can’t think of someone more beautiful than a woman who has been scarred, wounded and broken because of her past, but chooses to still see the beauty, love and kindness in the world despite it screaming at her that she should give up. No matter how many times she has been abused, no matter how many times she has been bullied, no matter how many nasty names she has been called, she chooses to love over and over again without tiring.
I believe that it takes a rare strength to be loving and kind. It’s the kind of strength that comes from deep within the heart and radiates outwards to create this domino effect on the world. Even if you are kind to one person in your day, that kindness can spread like wildfire and affect hundreds of people without you realizing it. Believe, because it does, that each act of kindness can and will change the world.

So, how can you be kind? I love what Jonathan Carroll once said, “I firmly believe in small gestures: pay for their coffee, hold the door for strangers, over tip, smile or try to be kind even when you don’t feel like it, pay compliments, chase the kid’s runaway ball down the sidewalk and throw it back to him, try to be larger than you are— particularly when it’s difficult. People do notice, people appreciate. I appreciate it when it’s done to for me. Small gestures can be an effort, or actually go against our grain, but the irony is that almost every time you make them, you feel better about yourself. For a moment life suddenly feels lighter, a bit more Gene Kelly dancing in the rain.”

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Leo Buscaglia

But kindness is not just a once-a-month kind of thing. It’s not a one-off coupon a stranger gets once in a while. It’s a way of life. It’s easy to care about your family and your friends, but it’s even harder to care about those who are simply passing across your path. Choose to care about the people you work with, about your supermarket cashier or about your delivery man. But choose to care especially for those who are rude or cold – they are the ones who need it the most. I know first-hand how hard it can be to do this (working in retail and customer service for three years is no easy feat), especially when you yourself are going through a hard time in life. But H. Jackson Brown Jr. once said something I have never forgotten since I read it and that has changed my attitude toward people forever: “Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something.” Knowing that everyone is fighting their own battles reminds me that we are all just human, trying to get on with life the best way we know how.
The times I have chosen to to be kind, even when someone was rude, I have never once regret. I have seen the way the cashier’s face lights up when I ask about her day, the gratitude of the waiter when I overtip and the relief of the store person when I tell them it’s okay they made a mistake. And trust me when I say that being warm will get you more places than it does being cold!

Our society places more importance on ambition, striving and materialistic wealth than on fairness, warmth or kindness. And although being kind may not give you a successful career, to me it means a successful life. Being kind isn’t easy, or convenient, but even the smallest acts of love can change someone’s life forever. And that is worth our fight.

I hope that you can be a warm fire that people go to when it’s cold. I hope that when people are tired, afraid or hopeless that it is you that they think of and turn to. And I hope that no matter how beaten down you may be, that you have the strength to choose love everyday. Always remember that it is harder to be kind than clever. It takes more courage to be warm than to be hard. And it takes a lot more strength to love than to hate. The world needs your kindness and there can never be enough of it. Too often we underestimate the it’s power when it has to potential to change everything.

Wherever there’s a choice, always choose to be kind.

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
Dalai Lama

Top image via Pinterest
Bottom image via The Little French Bullblog