By Jan S. Gephardt

Our society consistently overlooks the potential of a hugely powerful force that each of us holds within our basic nature. We overlook it – but we also too frequently discount it, disparage it, or make active choices to shut it out. What is this superpower that each of us could grasp but all too often spurn? It’s the power of kindness.

Uh-huh. You see what you did there? If you’re like many of us, your reaction was an underwhelmed, “Oh. Is that all?” Kindness isn’t popularly considered to be sexy (although I can’t recommend it highly enough for intimate connections!). It isn’t loud or flashy. It isn’t normally considered exciting, daring, or edgy, although I could make a case that it’s outrageously daring in today’s world.

November 13 was World Kindness Day, originated 25 years ago by the World Kindness Movement. But from where I sit, the world seemed to pay it little heed. We in the US were too taken up with “who will prevail in the elections?” Or maybe the focus centered on the battle to re-take Kherson. Some of us never lifted our head up to see beyond our own struggles, yearnings, or rivalries.

That’s all too often how we act. We elbow kindness aside with an attitude of “yeah, right, whatever. Weak!” But if we do that, we’re wrong. Kindness, at its base, is rooted in love. And although we may see our world as harsh and loveless (it all too often is), there are few things more powerful in human life than love – the source that fuels the power of kindness.

In honor of World Kindness Day, author Jan S. Gephardt writes about the power of kindness to be a source of positive change.
Many thanks for this image, AZ Quotes!

The Power of Kindness to Friends

Each of us needs to stop from time to time and ask: What kind of friend am I? Am I the kind of friend I would want to have in my life? Some of us display a regrettable tendency to seek out only people who we think can do things for us. We may be attracted to folks who are funny or popular, but we only stick around as long as they entertain us or give us something.

A person whose strategy is essentially to collect lots of acquaintances but withhold their real self is a fool to think they have lots of friends. What they have are lots of acquaintances with few meaningful attachments. Those relationships are transactional at their root and easily severed. Our overall well-being depends on the quality of our friendships (the depth, much more than the number). But many of us fail to regularly nurture those connections with regular attention, love, and empathy. We fail to remember the power of kindness.

Deep, lasting friendships require time and attention. Sometimes we need to step up and do more giving than receiving, while other times we must let down our guard and dare to show a vulnerability. A while back my sister wrote a blog post about “Stuff that Works.” That is, things in our lives that are dependable and durable. Her post mainly discussed things, but as friends our most rewarding role is to be an essential part of the “stuff that works” in the lives of our friends. The power of kindness runs bedrock-deep in the best and most meaningful friendships.

“One who knows how to show and to accept kindness will be a friend better than any possession.” — Sophocles
Much gratitude for this quote-image, Quotefancy!

The Power of Kindness to Strangers

We meet many strangers – and we tend to make snap evaluations. Our assumptions tend to “otherize” strangers. It’s the same process we use when we mentally divide ourselves against “enemies.” But how often do we see them as individuals in need of kindness? A smile, a helping hand with dropped things, a little kindness when you realize someone is struggling—that can make a person’s day. It’s a good practice to look at others and try to really see them. That requires not being totally self absorbed, which is the first step to unlocking the power of kindness.

A moment leaps to mind: British TV anchor Tom Bradby interviewed Meghan Markle in 2019. Perhaps tuned in with the fine-honed empathy that helps an interviewer bring out the unexpected, he asked how she was doing. “Thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I’m OK,” she replied. She’s rich. She’s famous. But she also was still a newlywed, a brand-new mother, and she had been the brunt of brutal, unrelenting, public criticism. In short, wealth and fame didn’t shield her. She most definitely was not okay.

Do we routinely thank people who perform services for us? The checkout clerk, the UPS guy, the people who pick up your trash, or any of a hundred others: Sure, they’re just doing their job. But they’re doing it faithfully, delivering good service for low pay and few perks. In a world where nearly everyone is rude, impatient and entitled, just doing that every day takes courage. We never know what our appreciation and kindness might mean to someone else. But we do know that everyone needs the power of kindness in their lives.

“One kind word can change someone’s day, year, life.” – Theravive
Many thanks to Theravive @theravive on Twitter.

The Power of Kindness to Ourselves

Who’s the one person we most often find ourselves criticizing, sniping at with snide remarks, or berating mercilessly? For all too many of us, that’s the bulk of our self-talk. What kind of inner life is buoyed up by such reflections? We may think we’re exhorting ourselves to greater accomplishments . . . but all too often we’re tearing ourselves down by mindlessly repeating cruel things others have said to us in vulnerable moments.

Occasionally a friend will say something self-destructive of that type. My response is always, “Don’t you talk to my good friend like that!”

And no. That is NOT “going too easy” on ourselves. No matter who told us that, they were dead wrong. Destructive, unkind and ugly self-talk can be the most destructive of all. We – ALL of us –need kindness. That goes double for our tender inner selves. Rule of thumb: if it’s not something you would say to a good friend whom you respect and cherish, then don’t say it to yourself!

We must learn to re-script those inner messages until they are affirmations of strength. That’s the only real way to free ourselves from crippling doubt. Only then can we give ourselves license to achieve greater things. The power of kindness is never a weakness.

“So why is self-compassion a more effective motivator than self-criticism? Because its driving force is love, not fear.” – Kristin Neff

Many thanks for this quote-image to Patricia Morgan’s Solutions for Resilience (pro tip: the article it came from is well worth reading, too!).

What if We Made Every Day Our “World Kindness Day”?

I hope by now I’ve made my point that the power of kindness can be transformative. It can make the world a better place. Not everywhere at once, maybe. Whether or not we treat those around us with kindness, we’re not going to convince Vladimir Putin to do the right thing. But we will at least be helping to make our own corner of the world a better place.

Showing kindness is a habit of mind. Imagine what could happen if more of us cultivated it! What kind of a world would it be if all of us made patience and compassion a practice? What if we always thanked people when they gave good service? And what if we asked them please, rather than demanding things?

When we’re online, what if we all chose the power of kindness? We would check the facts behind outrageous assertions. We would think twice before we typed in a hateful or disparaging comment. I’ve found that when I consistently delete, hide, or report nasty comments on my feed, my online world is gentler and kinder. Isn’t that a better environment to be surrounded by?

I’ firmly convinced. If enough of us demonstrate empathy and kindness foremost in our lives, then the power of kindness really will change the world.

IMAGE CREDITS

Kindness and fair play demand that we give credit where it’s due! Therefore, I wish to thank AZ Quotes, Quotefancy, Theravive, and Patricia Morgan’s Solutions for Resilience for the quote-images that added such beauty and wisdom to this week’s post!