I've been thinking about kindness lately, and last night, as I was editing my latest book proposal, I realized that kindness is one of the themes I've been exploring a lot lately.
A while back, I talked about my own personal kindness challenge, and how I was being more intentional about being kind. I'd hoped to spend the month talking about kindness, but then, I got zinged by someone I once thought of as a friend, and wondered if I really had any place to speak with authority on the subject. In one of my "I totally did not mean to be hurtful" moments, I said something that she interpreted as being unkind. The sad thing was, her response to me was very unkind, and while my lack of kindness was completely unintentional, her intent was to make sure I understood just how "bad" I was. Which, to me, is even more unkind. I'm not telling this story to call this person out. While she severed our friendship completely, I bear no ill will towards her. Actually, I kind of feel sorry for her, and hope that whatever that need in her to demand treatment from others that she does not reciprocate, that need is somehow filled. Somewhere inside her is a wounded person who needs healing, love, and yes, kindness.
Which is where, as I was writing last night, I started to think about how so many times, we ask for kindness, and in some ways, expect others to be kind toward us. Yet we often are not the ones freely sharing kindness. My daughter, Princess, often justifies her unkind behavior by saying, "well, the rule is do unto others as you would have them do to you. They're being mean to me, so I guess that means they want me to be mean to them!" As hard as I work to correct this view, I look around and realize that we all have that problem. Our first response when someone is unkind is to lash out, to criticize, to condemn.
Last night, I was in the store, and this guy was being, well, to put it nicely, a jerk. At first, I was like, huh, what a jerk. But then I noticed all the things he had in his basket. Medical supplies. Like the heavy duty kind you have to get when someone at your house is really sick. I wondered who he loved was sick, and what was wrong. I silently prayed for him, and when we both started for checkout at the same time, I intentionally slowed down, even though I was just as eager to beat the coming hail storm. What did it cost me to let this worried guy go ahead? Okay, I might spend a little more time in the store than I'd wanted to. But maybe those extra couple minutes of getting to whoever had him so worried would make a difference.
Notice my first reaction was not, "I wonder why he's got all those medical supplies," but, "what a jerk." My former friend's reaction was not, "huh, I wonder what's going on in her life that she was so short with me?" Sometimes being kind means taking an extra step back and not reacting. Not calling the person a jerk, or making the person pay for what seemed like a slight. Sometimes being kind is just a friendly smile or waiting patiently when you're in just as much of a hurry. Mostly, kindness is treating others the way you want to be treated, even when they don't follow that rule.
The best part about kindness, is that while it requires a little more self-control, is that it doesn't cost anything. Sometimes we think that we need to go out and buy people a cup of coffee or take them dinner, or do something really grand. But the truth is, the most meaningful part of kindness is simply how we treat each other. For me personally, the kindness of others in my life has been life-changing. And truthfully, as much as I've had to deal with unkindness, it is the kindness of loving friends that have made me want to be a kinder person. Maybe I'm living a little too much in my books, but ultimately, kindness is what changes the hearts of my characters.
Where has kindness made a difference in your life? What can you do to share kindness with others?