I have been thinking about kindness and compassion lately. I can remember some very specific examples of times in my life where someone was kind to me when I really needed it and how it made an impact on my life.
Accepting the Kindness of Others
I can’t remember now who said it, or even the circumstances, but I was in a heated discussion once and someone told me, “Perhaps the reason you are so upset is because you aren’t used to people being nice to you.” I was appalled at the thought. Of course people are nice to me. My family and friends, everyone I knew at the time was nice. I was accustomed to nice. But looking back I now realize that what he meant was – – I wasn’t used to accepting the kindness of another person. I didn’t understand that someone would be kind to me for the mere act of being kind. I wasn’t expecting that someone could do something in kind, with no ulterior motives, from the heart, just because they cared. I wasn’t ready to accept that for some reason at that point in my life.
No, I was into proving myself capable and worthy of respect. I was building myself up and trying to be responsible and trustworthy. I wanted others to accept me for me, with all of my faults and idiosyncrasies, and I wanted others to see me as capable. I thought to myself, “Why would someone do something nice for me, just because? They must want something in return. They must think I need their assistance.” I did not need their help. I knew I could do things on my own. I rejected their help. I even thought, “They must think I am weak and incapable. They are sure I will fail without their help.”
My friend was right. I wasn’t open to accept the kindness of others. I was so self-centered and so sure that I did not need anyone’s help that I couldn’t see why anyone would do something nice for me. Why would anyone offer to help me? I often mistook the kindness of others as an attack on me personally, as if they were pointing out my faults or that I was somehow needy. I did not want to depend on another person to show me my downfalls and mistakes. I wanted to be respected. I wanted others to trust my judgment. If I wanted help, I would ask for it. I was in control. I now see that I was trying to control everything. Not just my own actions, but also the actions of others.
There came a time when I did need help and help was there. It was a humbling and life changing experience. With time and experience comes wisdom and understanding. There is significance in everything. I learned that there are times when help arrives however unknowingly, unrequested and sometimes in remarkable, unbelievable ways. Sometimes help comes as an answer to my prayers, even when I am not sure what exactly it is that I need.
You might have heard of the “Northridge Earthquake.” On January 17, 1994 at 4:19 a.m. I was awakened by a strange rumbling feeling as if the floor was about to give way and the walls were about to fall down and the sound of extremely loud screaming. My husband was screaming in my ear holding on to me for dear life, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, it’s an EARTHQUAKE!” Writing this now, after all these years sends chills down the center of my being, through my bones and I can feel the fear rising up in me. It was by far the scariest most traumatic moment in my life. I wrote about it once in a handwritten journal. I poured out every detail onto the pages and I wrote it all down without stopping so that I would never have to recount it again. I suffered severe post traumatic syndrome disorder from the experience and I have moved past it and recovered, but since I couldn’t find the journal today, knowing I wanted to share a bit about it I needed to write it out again. It still haunts me. It is the fear of not knowing if you will survive that is chilling.
Obviously, I did survive. In fact, my husband, the screamer, and I were able to get dressed in the dark, get out of the apartment, and go over to my aunt’s place nearby. My husband was a hero to her as he went into a burning building to retrieve her hearing aid, glasses and medications. We came back to our apartment and by the light of day started to pick up all the broken pieces and survey the extensive damage. We had no idea what to do, where to go, or what would happen next. Freaked out and shattered by each big aftershock and not being able to call my family (no cell phones back then and phone lines were down, power was out, my apartment was in ruins. . . )
I was sitting on my sofa literally racking my brain on what the heck we were going to do and there was a knock at the door. On the door frame actually, because someone had to break our door down to rescue us from our apartment when it was evacuated and the lock broke and we were trapped inside. The door had to be removed completely. I looked up and it was my brother and sister-in-law. I thought I had died because there was no way they could be there at that moment. It was unfathomable. They lived over an hour’s drive away and I knew the roads have been closed, the freeways were broken between his house and mine and it was just impossible that he could be standing there saying something silly. I think he said, “Is this where the party is?” or something like that. They came to help. They came to save me. It’s been almost twenty years since this happened, and I still sob when I think about how I felt at that moment and how it changed me forever. What my brother did was completely selfless, compassionate and beyond measure. He and his wife left their small children at home in the care of their neighbors so they could come and make sure that my husband and I were okay. They helped us pack up some things and we took our aunt and our cats to his house, where it was safe, calm and unbroken. He sheltered and cared for us when we had nowhere else to turn.
A few years later, my husband and I experienced that kind of selfless giving again when my mother-in-law helped us with living arrangements and basic needs when I was pregnant and we couldn’t make ends meet. When I realized how much of a sacrifice that was for her at the time, I am blown away by the thought of it. Her generosity and love is unconditional. She is the most kind and thoughtful person I know.
Another example of thoughtfulness came in the form of a big basket of food from my friends in my Ladies Bunko Group after my mom died. It was a gesture that went beyond the usual condolences. It was heartfelt and unlike anything I had ever experienced. I wasn’t used to being the recipient of a food basket. It wasn’t because I didn’t have the resources to buy food or even make it. But at that time in my life, my world was shattered. I once again found myself in a state very much like after the earthquake when I was not sure what to do next. And there was a knock at the door. My friends had heard what happened. They had prepared this meal for my family. I did not have to worry about cooking. I wouldn’t have been able to ever repay them for their kindness.
Paying it Forward
There are too many times to recount when I have asked for help and help was there. I have been the recipient of help in so many situations, I vowed that I would pay it forward as much as possible and in every way I can. I am honored when I am asked to help out for this reason. It gives me a chance to do something nice for someone in the way others have done nice things for me. I have become one of those people who like to help others, even when they may not be accepting of help or feel they need it. I am honestly just being nice. There is no ulterior motive.
Being willing to help others is just as important as being open to accepting help. Give others the chance to be nice to you, out of the goodness of their heart. You never know when they are paying it forward themselves. Always accept the kindness of others. There does not need to be a reason.
“Beauty is a word, kindness is an act that makes you beautiful” ~Melissa Foster
Treat Everyone with Kindness
I feel it is important to treat others kindly, even if the person isn’t a very nice person. I never know when someone might be suffering inside and their demeanor is unfavorable as a result. Maybe they are in pain. Maybe they are in a state of worry. Maybe they have been hurt. Perhaps they are having a hard day or are in a bad mood. So, I err on the positive and treat them with the same dignity and care that I would give to the outwardly nice people. I try to be nice to everyone all the time. It always warms my heart when I get a smile in return from anyone when I am nice to them, most especially when it is a grumpy person!
When you are trying to explain something, teach a new concept, or share information with others and they challenge you, take it as an opportunity to practice kindness. Be considerate in your beliefs. This means accepting that others may not always agree with you. They might not be ready to understand. They might not be open to your way of thinking. They may simply disagree. You don’t have to be right. If you can’t get everyone to see things your way, it’s not a loss. If you rise up and meet them half way, be open to their point of view, explain yourself from a different perspective, take the time, the extra energy, the care to let things happen in a natural progression and not force an issue, that is the kind approach. Softening your heart and allowing things to unfold is not giving in. It is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a sign of strength because it shows that you are willing to wait and that you stand by your way. Others will honor and respect you for your convictions. You will own it. It is always a win when you practice being kind.
“You can either practice being right, or practice being kind.” – Anne Lamott
Be Kind to Yourself
When you begin to practice being kind, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break! Don’t be so hard on yourself. It is okay to make mistakes and lose control. It is okay to have an off day. You do not always have to be on. If you feel like no one is being nice to you or everyone is being hard on you and you wish that someone would come along and cheer you up – cheer yourself up! Access your inner sweetheart and listen to her tell you it’s going to be okay. Listen when she says you are beautiful, smart and loving.
Random Acts of Kindness
Some people believe the best way to get started in the practice of being kind is to participate in random acts of kindness. You can start by making a list of nice things you can do – just because. This is really fun to do with kids (of any age) as a project.
It might help to think about your day. Start with your routine, getting up in the morning, having breakfast, getting to work. Is there anyone that you see in the morning that would benefit from an act of kindness? You can get ideas here: Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
What Does it Take to be Kindhearted?
Just think of other people with kindness. Put yourself in their place. How would it feel to be them? Is there anything you can do or say to make them happy? How about just telling them that you are thinking of them? How about smiling and saying, “Hello.”?
It is more than being nice and thinking kind thoughts, kindness takes action. Being kind all the time to all people requires practice. Developing this as a way of life becomes a practice. Kindness is a philosophy. Kindness is a way of being that requires feeling for and caring about other people and thinking outside of my own needs. Caring for the needs of others is an act of compassion.
When I practice kindness I am connecting with the world around me. It helps me to realize that most people are just like me. We all have moments when we are suffering inside. We never know what problems exist for the person beside us. What daemons are they fighting? What ails them? Do they let it show all the time? No. They put on a happy face. They keep it in their head. They hold their suffering in their heart. Being kind because you can, not for any other reason, becomes caring, compassionate and worthwhile. We depend on other people to make us whole. If I am kind to you, it makes us both feel better.
Making Mistakes in Kindness
Our society sends us mixed signals about being kind and helping others. In fact, I was told by a friend and colleague that some people look on being kind as a sign of weakness. When I asked why, she said it was because they know they wouldn’t do the same. So, if my friends aren’t into being kind to others, by this theory, they think I am weak or less of a person because I would be kind? That makes me sick to my stomach. I am not a doormat because I am willing to go out of my way to be nice. Luckily, I am kind to myself and I will recover from the nausea. Knowing that some people feel this way won’t stop me from being kind and I know in my kindness I don’t have to try to sway their thought process or win their approval.
“I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness.” ~ Mother Teresa
Many of my friends and fellow businesswomen who are actively gaining power, influence, confidence, and strength in their business and in their life are starting to take on the attitude that caring about others is not important and are even shunning others who are being nice to them. They don’t want to be bothered. Do you hear that? How cold. How harsh. You won’t get far, trust me. It might feel good to be empowered and feel in control for a while. But you will harden your heart in the process and it will cost you. It will hurt when you see it in the actions of your kids. It will hurt when you are alone and need help and you reject it. You are not proving anything to anyone if you are trying to emulate this philosophy. Don’t build up walls around you. Who will be there for you when your world is shattered? Who will knock on your door and ask “Is this where the party is?” If you kick every good doer who is in your way to the curb, it won’t be long before you find yourself there. I’ll tell you what. If that happens, you can count on me. I will be the one knocking. I will be there to lift you up.
Check out this “Pinable” photo and quote from MizMeliz about kindness: Your Kindness Colors My World.
To learn more about Melissa Reyes and Life Coaching, see http://MizBizEvents.com