If you google kindness, you will get a plethora of articles, quotes, and even entire magazines on the benefits of kindness along with why possessing kindness is the key to a happier more fulfilled life. I strongly believe that showing kindness is the essence of humanity, it is the way we connect on a soul level because it costs nothing to be kind. As I began to study this topic more, I started to realize some things within myself and wondered if somehow, in our efforts to ensure we are being kind to our fellow humans we are losing ourselves. Have we replaced being real with being kind? Are we so terrified at the thought of being perceived as unkind or unsympathetic that we say and do what we think people want rather than what they need? As I thought about this more, as I dug deeper, I realized that although there is a great deal of information on the benefits of kindness, there is very little information on the potential adverse effects of kindness to our emotional and psychological wellbeing. YES, that’s right, there can be adverse effects to being kind.
Kindness is a quality that I wish every person possessed. The true type, the authentic type, and most importantly, the type that sometimes doesn’t feel so good but is in actuality the most considerate, thoughtful, and in my opinion, the most sincere gift a person can give. Kindness has been painted as having to be this beautiful act that always makes another person feel good. It’s true, much of the time it does exactly that but it seems we have lost our way by not considering that sometimes, kindness means speaking a harsh truth or possibly even standing up for your own beliefs and boundaries. We have lost sight of the fact that authenticity holds a great deal more integrity than empty words ever will even if on the surface those words may seem hurtful and strong. Yes, kindness should look like helping your neighbour during a time of need, telling someone you’re proud of them or that you’re grateful to have them in your life. Kindness should even encompass sacrifice at times for the greater good along with benevolent giving with zero expectation of getting anything in return. Kindness can take many forms which contribute to the overall well-being of humanity but have we stopped to consider that time a friend asked for advice and in the name of kindness we have given the easy response instead of the honest and necessary one? How many times have we watched a loved one go down a dark path and rather than speak up we silence ourselves – along with our inner moral compass – in the name of being kind, polite, and not offensive? For goodness sake, we have cultivated such a need to always be kind that we are now forced to remind people that it’s okay to say NO!
I think it is safe to say that women are more likely to be affected by the need to constantly be kind and attentive than men are. We run the risk of being called emotional if we over-share our feelings or bitchy if we speak our truth. It is not uncommon for young girls to be told “be a good girl” which to me translates to “keep the peace at all costs”. It seems we have resorted to teaching our children that maintaining status-quo trumps the truth. We often see “It costs nothing to be kind” but is this really true? Telling someone it will be okay as we watch them make mistakes can cause a great deal more damage than some temporary hurt feelings. Is the truth not always the better route? Does the truth not inevitably express love and thus kindness in it’s purest form?
But is the truth is really good enough? Have we fostered a society more content with living in this middle ground between the truth and a story called kindness? It’s more feasible to believe that we are afraid of the truth because it may actually push us to learn and grow or even realize something we would rather avoid. Maybe we fear that the truth comes with more backlash than anyone wants to deal with, thus creating a society full of egos that think they can do no wrong is the easier road. Even our children don’t know how to lose or fail, because we can’t bear to tell them the truth for they may not like us or think we are being cruel.
In the name of kindness, I think it’s time we collectively make a pledge to be truthful and authentic. To be considerate of the effects our actions have but not afraid of standing up for what really matters. In the name of kindness, I think it’s time that we help build strong communities with real expectations – even at the risk of being considered unpleasant – that will contribute to growth and self-reflection and encourage joy and happiness. As long as our actions always encompass pure intentions full of love, respect, and consideration for both ourselves and our fellow human beings, I have to believe that the outcome will always be one of the highest good, even if it may not always seem so on the surface.
This article is dedicated to two amazing women that have shown me what it means to be authentic and truthful in the face of vulnerability. I am grateful to both of you for your guidance and friendship. Dedicated to Stephanie and Linda! With Love....Eleni xox