As I spend time with the 20 and 30-somethings and the newer generations, I am truly mesmerized by their emboldened character traits. I love these generations for so many things; their desire to make a difference, non-judgmental attitudes, nomad traits—going anywhere to find the tribe that can support their passions, and shaping their own fabrics of faith. One of the traits of the new generations I admire the most is kindness.
Demonstrating kindness may be considered a spiritual exercise, but is also a highly admirable human trait. The ways of kindness, though may not always come naturally, can certainly be an earned and learned trait.
Here are some challenges regarding kindness and how we might improve our paradigm:
- Kindness is hard because it takes time. So often in our crazy world, we just don’t take the time to extend kindness, even when we feel it is needed. You can’t be kind when you’re in a hurry. Haste is the root of undone kindness. Emerson said “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
Solution: Make it a practice to not be in such a hurry that you overlook a chance to be kind.
- Kindness is hard because it is inconvenient. Kindness or performing a kind act is usually not on your schedule. We often have so many important things on our schedules that being kind can be inconvenient and interrupt our schedules. Kindness is usually not on your agenda because it doesn’t rank in your top 10 things to do that day.
Solution: Overarch your daily schedule by putting on top of your to do list “demonstrate kindness in every interaction this day.” This then becomes an act we can practice and will eventually come more naturally. I once met with a recognized spiritual leader and he said regarding spirituality in his life….”It ma
kes me less of a jerk than I would normally be.” I admit the same in my life, and I believe an umbrella of kindness over all we do will brighten our world and also the world of those we interact with.
- Kindness is hard because it demands focus. If you think about it, kindness is always intentional. Seeing the need for kindness comes from stepping out of our comfort zone sometimes, especially if we are naturally an introvert. Part of this focus is to be slow to anger and quick to compliment; or quick to reserve or withhold judgment, and slow to react to our less than kind instincts.
Solution: Pick your head up from your electronic device and look around you. When passing by people in your midst, take the time to look them in the eyes with kindness and a smile—THAT is perhaps the most significant kind act you will do in a day. Kindness doesn’t have to be spectacular, it simply requires focus. Wave to your neighbors. Looking away can be considered an act of unkindness, so engage with humanity—-it makes life so much more interesting and enjoyable.
Acts of kindness can easily be proactive. Here is a short list:
- Write a note to someone
- Perform a deed without being asked
- Serve in the background without requiring fanfare
- Do the dishes
- Give compliments freely
- Don‘t look at your watch while in conversation
- Give up a parking spot without complaining
- Put your shopping cart back where it belongs
Kindness is the center of conflict resolution; an effective peace maker can shape a sword into a plow shear. Peace through strength is not the same as peace through kindness. Kindness lasts and doesn’t necessarily have to be “monitored” for peace to be sustained. No one launches a rocket in kindness.
Here is another thing about kindness; while it can be learned and practiced, it can never be faked. Kindness and authenticity go hand in hand.
In terms of effective leadership, I recently learned that if you are cold (unkind) and are seen as low-warmth, you have something like a 1-in-2000 chance to make it to the top 25% of effectiveness as a leader. I’ve seen it in my own companies; harsh directives only bring long-term distain, while kindnesses, though sometimes overlooked, more often than not can bring long-term loyalty and friendship. Even if those you are kind to don’t return the favor, it’s a better way to lead and live.
In terms of spirituality, it’s just a no-brainer that a kind and warm person can be entreated to enter a sacred world of thought and mindfulness. Why else would one enter that realm if not invited by someone we esteem as kind, warm, and generous?
I wish to say “Thank you” to the Millennials and younger generations for leading the way with kindness. You are blazing a better trail for every generation to follow.