You may be wondering what the kindness conundrum is. I’m wondering what the problem is with being kind.
All the evidence points to the fact being kind not only helps the receiver, but also the giver. So, why doesn’t everyone hop on board the kindness caboose?
While there are many intense areas of kindness in the world there also seems to be areas where it is nowhere to be found.
In a world that should be united to save our suffering planet, we are still facing horrendous stories of cruelty towards each other and towards nature. That is the kindness conundrum.
How do we solve it?
Disasters seem to bring out the best in (most) people. There are still countless stories of kindness coming out of Texas during and after Cyclone Harvey.
Stranded pets rescued, a furniture store opened its doors as a shelter and offered its comfy, brand new beds for use.
A group of neighbours formed a human chain to rescue a man stuck in a flooded car. One truckie drove more than 321 km (200 miles) and with the help of two others saved more than 1000 stranded people. The list goes on and you can read some of the stories here.
There were amazing acts of kindness related to the 2013 bushfires which devastated the Blue Mountains and destroyed 132 homes. People were even offering free use of rental properties and cars.
Does it have to take a disaster to bring out the best of us?
Clearly, that’s not the case for everyone. There are millions of acts of kindness going on every moment of every day.
There are also horrendous stories of bullying so mean it drives kids to suicide, discrimination that leaves victims feeling useless and terrified, unspeakable cruelty to animals and thoughtlessness towards nature.
THE KINDNESS CONUNDRUM – WHY SOME PEOPLE ARE CRUEL
How people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves.
The main reason people are cruel relates to low self-esteem. In order to lift their self-view, they make downward comparisons – comparisons that enable them to look down on others in order to feel better about themselves.
This is why teaching kids to keep self-love alive is so vital. People with good self-esteem have no reason to unfavourably compare with others.
Others are unkind because that is what they have learned.
Cruelty, just like kindness, can be taught. Just like kindness, cruelty can be contagious – think mob mentality.
For a child who grows up in an environment full of negative judgements, racism and discrimination, being kind can be a challenge. They can become a black heart.
Depression can make even the kindest people behave in unkind ways. I’ve experienced this with loved ones who suffered from depression. They often fail to communicate with you, which causes you stress. When they do communicate, they often say mean things.
When you understand the causes of the kindness conundrum, it’s easier to deal with it.
THE ROAD TO RAGE ADDS TO THE KINDNESS CONUNDRUM
Stress and anger can cause kind people to be mean.
A few weeks ago, slightly sleep deprived, I was driving with a couple of Goddesses in the car. An older driver who was clearly not very confident did something that could have caused an accident. I immediately felt angry, especially with my precious cargo on board. I managed not to swear – go Grandy! But I did say some rather mean things about the driver, though she couldn’t hear me through closed windows. I was shocked when the six-year-old Goddess started making excuses for her. I’ve talked before about this little girl’s golden heart.
I felt so ashamed to have vented in this unkind way when I am all about teaching those girls love, compassion and above all, kindness.
I guess we all slip at times when pushed.
My venting did not make me feel good about myself. I had to accept my mistake, forgive myself and show myself compassion in order to regain my self-esteem. And perhaps avoid a spiral effect that could result in adding to the kindness conundrum.
A few days later, another driver abused me for not letting her in (I had a truck bearing down on me so didn’t consider it safe).
Instead of reacting with more anger and negative thoughts, I felt compassion for her and realised she must be having a tough day to be so full of rage.
This time, I did feel good about myself – my self-esteem fully intact.
My own experiences are backed up by science that proves being kind makes us happier.
It even improves our health.
SOLVING THE KINDNESS CONUNDRUM
Isn’t this what we all want for our kids? Happiness and health?
The first step in solving the kindness conundrum is to help our children discover the benefits of being kind for themselves.
Encourage them to spread kindness and, when they do, discuss with them how it makes them feel inside.
The example we set will probably be the biggest influence on what kind of adults they become so we should be cautious about how we speak about others and try to show them kindness in practical ways.
If we do slip up, it’s a good idea to speak honestly about it with children. Explain we know we shouldn’t have said unkind words but sometimes, emotions such as fear can make us react without thinking. That’s when we need to be kind to ourselves and understand we all make mistakes that we can learn from.
I think I redeemed myself with the Goddess when I tried, with everything I had, to save a tiny bird that was injured in our yard.
I gently put the bird in a box, tried to get professional help (a long weekend made that impossible) and reached out to Facebook friends for advice.
Sadly, the bird did not survive but my little Goddess told me she loved how hard I tried to save it – “Just like I would do, Grandy”.
This incident offered her the opportunity to see the kindness of a friend, who dropped everything to help the rescue mission by bringing a supply of bird nectar.
This is not the first time my example of concern for nature has lifted me to hero status in her eyes.
LITTLE THINGS MAKE A BIG IMPACT
I tell the Goddesses about my volunteer work with the local neighbourhood centre. It takes up very little of my time but I know it is a big help and that makes me feel good.
When shopping, I make a point of putting the trolley back in its allotted spot. Leaving it in or near a parking space could inconvenience other shoppers, or even damage their car. Nothing kind about that.
When I see rubbish others have tossed on the footpath, I pick it up.
Whenever possible, I recycle and often encourage the girls to use recyclables when we are making arts and crafts together.
When out and about, I smile and greet those around me. If there is an obvious compliment to make, I do that too.
There are a billion different ways to show little kindnesses to people and the environment.
These are the examples I’m hoping the Goddesses remember and take into their adult lives.
None of them cost me anything, but the rewards are huge.
The painted rock craze is a great way to involve kids in kindness projects.
Another way we promote kindness is to contribute to a love jar – full of compliments that will spread happiness and joy, which is what kindness is all about.
How will you solve the kindness conundrum?
Wishing you kindness and a gleeful week, Tamuria.