Kindness: Start by Being Kind to Yourself
“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”
Henry James, American Author
James’ quote, while simple, carries with it life lessons and a guidepost as to how we might conduct our relationships with those around us. Kindness should be our first response. I actually had a coach tell me years ago that if she showed kindness to her players they would think she was a pushover and not work as hard…Hmm, really? I’ve never thought of kindness as a show of weakness, but quite the opposite. To be kind is a discipline. It takes restraint, perspective-taking, and control.
But let’s face it, we fall short on occasion. We find ourselves being sharp with our children, our students, our co-workers. We might be quick to anger, ignore, or disrespect those we perceive as beneath us. Kindness is not always the go-to behavior. We try…we believe we are kind. We hope others would say we are, and it has even been said that we are wired for kindness…until…well, we catch ourselves not being so kind.
So how do we make kindness a mindful act instead of an aspiration? Gabriella van Rij, speaker, author, and kindness activist lists four simple steps for making kindness a habit in your life.
- Start with Yourself: How do we treat ourselves when we fall short, let someone down, drop the ball, make a mistake, notice a flaw? We can be our own worst enemy, and brutally judgmental at times, holding ourselves to standards that we don’t ask of anyone else. It’s hard to show kindness to others when you haven’t been taking care of yourself and meeting your own emotional needs. Kindness starts with being kind to yourself.
- Answer Rudeness with Kindness: When someone is rude to you, the first thing you do is instantly react and not always in a positive way. And the second thing you do is think it’s about me. They were nasty to me. But it’s not about you, it’s about the emotion. By answering rudeness with kindness, you diffuse the situation and there’s also a certain satisfaction in seeing the change of the attitude in the person who was rude.
- Check Your Delivery: Reflect upon your tone of voice, your delivery, how you say things, and even your presence. At times, it just means slowing down to acknowledge those you encounter during your day, which communicates respect. The tone that accompanies your words is as important as what you are saying.
- Praise It When You See It: The more you practice searching out and acknowledging the kind deeds of others, the more you will recognize times in your own life where you can lend a hand. When you acknowledge the kind acts you see, that person will be encouraged to continue to spread kindness. Acknowledging kindness in others also will serve as a reminder to you about how you can show kindness.
Kindness is a language the deaf can hear, and the blind can see.
Be kind to yourself, and then extend that kindness in your words and actions to the humans around you. Peace!
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