Kindness feels like something of a rarity these days. Newspapers are horror stories in print – senseless shootings, bombings, murders and rapes everywhere in the world. Where are the reports of kindness? Sure, they’re there but they’re so sadly overshadowed by reports of violence and anger.
In our day-to-day lives, we meet (and sometimes, we ourselves are) people who want to show off, to prove a point, to be respected, admired and looked up at. In our quest to show we’ve upgraded ourselves, sometimes we forget to be kind.
Now, what is kindness? It’s a word that we all think we know, but I’m not sure we truly understand it. In my opinion, it’s easy to be kind to people who are nice to you. It’s easy to be kind to people who are having a much bigger struggle than you are, because you might consciously or unconsciously see yourself as ‘the better one’.
However, how do you be kind to someone who isn’t kind to you? In fact, someone who’s plain mean. Say for example, someone’s wronged you. It doesn’t matter in what way, and whether this person is justified or not, but you’re feeling severely wronged. You could yell and confront that person, but that’s not the kindest thing to do. You could just stop talking and ignore that person, but neither is ignoring a person kind. Or, you could be civil to the person, say hello, even when all you really feel like doing is punching that person. But is that kind? Or is that fake? What is the kind thing to do in this situation? What would you do?
Does kindness need to be painful in order for it to be kind? Do you have to specifically go out of your way and inconvenience yourself in order to make your kindness count? I’m being a little extreme here, and I don’t believe kindness has to be painful, but what do you do in situations where you feel like you want to be kind and nice but you just don’t know how to be?
Also, what about kindness in our daily lives? I sat down and thought about what I’d done in the past week, and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve done anything particularly kind. Everything I’ve done was within my sphere of comfort. I don’t think I did anything unkind either, but doing nothing is not necessarily better.
I was curious to know what my friends thought about kindness. First, I wanted to know what their definition of kindness was.
“Kindness is genuinely offering help without expecting a return. Someone who puts another person’s convenience before him or herself.”
“Kindness, especially sincere kindness, is so rare these days. I’ve lost track of how many times people have been nice to me, only to call in the favor later. If someone was mean to me, I would be polite to that person, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to be besties with them. Polite being we can smile, have small talk and even joke, but it ends there.”
“It’s not easy to be kind to someone who is mean to you. But I believe that’s the only way to do it. It’s hard, but be kind to that person. This person is probably like this due to something that happened in the past. The way he or she was brought up, or maybe he or she was so void of kindness that this is the only way he or she knows how to treat others. And hey, maybe showing a little bit of kindness will help break that wall.”
Two of my bosses at work told me that kindness was akin to forgiveness. It was also the ability to do something for someone with absolutely no expectation of a return. It was doing something for someone else, where you’re not going to get credit, or anyone is going to see you doing. At this point, I said that while I don’t expect a kind deed to be done back to me, I certainly don’t appreciate something nasty being done to me! My boss pointed out that it meant I did have expectations. I then gave a hypothetical example.
“Imagine you have a friend that’s very broke, and you decide to gift this person a thousand dollars to help him with his situation. Two years later, he’s doing well financially. And then, through some dealings, you discover that he’s stolen money from you!”
My boss shook his head, and firmly pressed on the point that it was a gift. If it was a gift, there was no expectation of a return. Nada.
Back to reality, I then polled some of my friends what were the kind things they’ve done for people, or what kind things people had done to them over the past week.
“I went all the way to a different office to collect something for an office. But honestly, I wasn’t genuinely feeling like I wanted to help. It’s just that nobody wanted to layan (entertain) him, so he was a little bit ‘cham’. (pitiful)
“I shared my birthday cake with the security guard! I knew it would make him happy!”
“A guy gave me free petrol. I was behind him in the petrol station and he came up to me and said that his company’s petrol claim is on a rollover basis, and it would accumulate if it wasn’t finished, so he offered me his petrol card. He even gave some to a motorcyclist dude in front of him!”
My grandmother had passed away, and my boss’s boss took over my work for me despite being on holiday in Bangkok, because my immediate boss was on break.
I liked these examples above because these were real, every day little acts of kindness. And I think these little acts, which might seem small and inconsequential, make a big difference. It feels good when someone does something for you. It feels good when you’re offered a cake and being treated like an equal. When you’re exposed to genuine kindness, and you’re helped out at a time when you really need it, it’s an amazing feeling to have. And hopefully, this good feeling carries on, and somehow pays its way forward.