Kindness is usually the best gift you can give someone, and it costs absolutely nothing.
I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true.
Studies have shown how even small and random acts of kindness boost our well-being.
Not only that, but when you are kind to someone, it’s contagious and people pass it on to others.
Let’s face it, kindness is always a good way to go no matter what the situation.
But there are moments in life where it is the absolute best thing we can do.
That doesn’t make it easy though, as we’re about to find out.
1) When you’re trying hard to forgive and forget
Have you ever been wronged by someone?
Of course you have.
Because sadly, it’s a part of human nature.
Sometimes we cause pain, lie, cheat, double-cross, and stab one another in the back.
That’s not to say it’s okay. It’s simply to acknowledge the reality that to ‘er is human’.
And as the saying goes…’to forgive divine’.
Yet it is so tempting to hold onto grudges. Especially when we are right and they are clearly in the wrong.
But the danger of doing so is that you give away your power and turn yourself into a perpetual victim.
Kindness can seem like an unwarranted gift to them that they don’t deserve. But it’s actually more of a gift to yourself.
Years ago when my ex-boyfriend cheated on me and lied to me, I was understandably really hurt by his actions.
But what ultimately helped was not vilifying him after we broke up, but instead sending kindness his way.
Rather than play into the all-too-easy narrative that he was a bad guy, I chose to recognize life isn’t that black and white.
I even went as far as doing loving-kindness meditations directed at him and the woman he left me for.
Research has shown that it reduces negative emotions, improves our sense of connectedness, and helps us deal with trauma, amongst other things.
I found that the kindness I was able to muster towards them, helped to heal me.
The truth is that the kindness we bestow on others acts like a mirror and reflects back on us tenfold.
2) When you don’t understand where someone else is coming from
We’re all different.
Our experiences, upbringings, and even our genetic makeup are unique to us and so give us a unique perspective.
But these differences can turn into ugly disagreements, full-blown arguments, and deep conflicts whenever kindness goes completely out of the window.
The culprit is usually our egos getting involved.
Instead of seeking to better understand one another, we can quickly become defensive or judgemental.
I know that I can have a stubborn streak as much as the next person. The problem is that attitude usually leads to a stalemate.
We can turn it into a ‘me versus them’ battle, even when the topic doesn’t particularly matter that much.
Not seeking to understand someone may not always seem like such a big deal. Especially if we’re pretty sure they’re the one being an ass.
But it can quickly become incredibly divisive in insidious ways.
The world is full of atrocities because groups of people are unable to find any mutual understanding.
On large scales and small, kindness is like a tonic that softens us.
Rather than harden against someone, there is then greater room for empathy.
For this reason, it’s an act of kindness when we:
- Actively listen instead of shouting someone down
- Ask questions when we don’t understand someone’s point of view
- Seek to see where others are coming from
- Try to reserve judgment and keep an open mind
- Look beyond surface opinions or differences and see the person behind it
- Try to find common ground to de-escalate tense situations and promote resolutions
- Offer apologies when we’ve caused hurt or offense
3) When you’re striving for high standards
I guess this one comes down to whether you believe in the carrot or the stick.
Meaning, whether you want to motivate someone through fear or love.
I’d argue that the latter is always going to be far more powerful and sustainable in the long run.
Here’s an example:
You have a boss who gives you a hard time. They always seem to notice and point out any perceived flaws or failures.
Yet when it comes to dishing out credit where it’s due, they’re suspiciously schtum.
The reality is that we feel far more inclined to work hard when we respect those we’re working for and with.
Bullying someone into being a better version of themself just isn’t the way to go.
According to the Harvard Business Review:
“Receiving a compliment, words of recognition, and praise can help individuals feel more fulfilled, boost their self-esteem, improve their self-evaluations, and trigger positive emotions, decades of research have shown.”
When it comes to growing self-worth, kindness is always the way to go.
But that goes for yourself too, not just other people.
4) When you think you’ve messed up and are feeling down on yourself
“I’m such an idiot”
“Why do I always make such a fool of myself?!”
“I’m just so stupid, I can’t seem to get anything right”
All too often we have a catalog of unkind words stored away that we direct toward ourselves and can readily pull out in an instant.
It’s worryingly common to be your own worst critic, and so in the process become your own worst enemy.
It’s like carrying around a little self-sabotager in your back pocket.
But even if we can’t completely kick it to the curb, we can certainly learn to soften this inner critic through kindness.
That’s going to demand that we practice self-acceptance so we can handle our weaknesses rather than endlessly beat ourselves up about them.
Even when you’ve messed up, you always deserve to be on your own side in life.
It’s so important to show yourself the kindness you need through self-love and self-compassion.
5) When you’ve got zero clue what’s going on in someone else’s life
This is a tricky one, because let’s face it, we rarely have total insight into what’s going on behind closed doors.
But that’s sort of the point.
If we can, it’s always better to stop and remind ourselves of this fact.
That jerk who cut you off in traffic may be struggling to pay his rent and about to lose his job.
That mean girl who was so rude when she served you this morning may have just been dumped and desperately wants to go home and crawl into bed.
Even your friend or loved one who bites your head off over nothing could be having the worst day ever.
When you catch the tail-end of someone else’s bad mood, it’s annoying as hell.
But before we bite back and get on our high horse, we can try to muster up some kindness.
Now, I know what you may be thinking:
Isn’t there a risk that this approach turns you into a total sucker who becomes the world’s biggest punching bag?
That’s why kindness should always be accompanied by boundaries. Healthy and reasonable expectations are what shield us emotionally from other people’s shit.
But the reality is that we all go around inadvertently projecting what’s happening in our lives onto one another.
We can try to take things far less personally.
When we do, it’s easier to find that kindness and sympathy toward other people who may be secretly hurting and having a hard time.
Kindness is needed most when it’s often the hardest to give
You’ve probably spotted a pattern by now.
Kindness is the best thing to offer whenever moments are at their toughest.
No doubt that is demanding of us.
We’re certainly not always going to manage it because we are only human too. The worse we’re feeling the harder it usually is to be kind to someone else.
But it’s an important reminder that being kind isn’t just about the fluffy stuff.
It’s not only about paying it forward, giving compliments, showing our appreciation, or helping out a pal (as nice as all those things are).
Kindness matters the most in the moments when we most need it, and they are usually times of struggle.
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