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I feel somewhat compelled to write about this topic again because in a very recent experience I found a strange reaction to my previous posting on the topic.

To share a little background, I belong to a support group of sorts for people who suffer with my disease. Or at least I used to belong to this group, I’m not sure yet if I will stay or not.

Upon sharing my thoughts on kindness…and keep in mind these were my thoughts…not an edict or proclamation that this is how others should behave. Anyway, upon sharing these thoughts with my so called support group, I got a bizarre and somewhat alarming reaction.

The first person who responded to what I wrote said and I quote…”kindness is overdone”. Some piped up in agreement adding that being called an idiot once and awhile is a good for you. Still others began discussing how kindness is enabling and coddling and can be too subtle…things were said like…”sometimes people need to be told the hard truth” In fairness…even though I put quotes around the comment…it is paraphrasing but you get the idea.

The tone of the entire conversation, which was meant to be about kindness, turned down a dark dank alley in a big hurry. A few members attempted to help salvage the conversation by saying that being truthful and being direct with others do not have to be mutually exclusive. A few members made a gallant attempt to explain that it is tone that matters and that most people, or at least they hoped that most people responded better to kindness than to an over abundance of so called truth telling.

But these attempts fell on deaf ears. And during the conversation I was personally attacked twice even being called judgmental.

So despite the well meaning attempts by a brave few who took the time to stick their necks out and try to bring the conversation back into the light, the conversation ultimately died a dismal tragic death.

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It’s been bothering me ever since which I think is understandable. At least I hope it is!

To me kindness comes in many forms and while I get the concept of tough love, I don’t buy that you have to cruel to be kind. Not anymore anyway. I think actually that this idea of being cruel in order to better someone else is a cop out.

I’m not saying people should be enabled or encouraged to act in self destructive ways. Not by any means. I but do believe in the saying…”You catch more flies with honey.” Most difficult messages are better heard when delivered with love – not with a boot to the butt.

And sometimes kindness is being quiet. We do not have to express every opinion we have about the things other people do that we don’t like – especially when those things are none of our business to begin with. Talk about judgmental!

I used to be a “tell it like it is” person which is to say that I used to be immature and I carried a big chip on my shoulder. Then maybe you could have called me judgmental and then you might have been right.

But I have learned a few things about kindness over the years and especially since I have become chronically ill. Kindness may not be mutually exclusive from telling someone a hard truth, that is to say being direct but it is mutually exclusive from being abusive toward others in tone, words and or the use of physical force.

When I was a healthcare administrator, before I got sick, I had the unfortunate responsibility of firing people when this was required. Occasionally people would say things like, “Oh I bet it felt good to fire her!” In truth, it never feels good to fire someone. And whenever this task fell upon me it was with a heavy heart. When you fire someone they always want to know why. This is natural. So this is one place where I learned that sharing hard news and difficult truths with people should be done in a gentle way and that gentleness and directness are also not mutually exclusive.

It never dawned on me for a second that sharing some simple thoughts on kindness…my thoughts on kindness…with a group whose primary purpose is to support one another through the roller coaster of chronic illness would lead to such vitriol. It horrifies me.

Kindness to me will never be any thing other than this:

Kindness is warm.

Kindness is hopeful.

Kindness is soft spoken truth.

Kindness is peaceful.

Kindness quiets anger.

Kindness stifles sarcasm.

Kindness lacks judgement.

Kindness humbles us.

Kindness is easy.

Kindness costs nothing.

Kindness is inspiring.

Kindness brings positive change.

Kindness is light.

Kindness suffocates darkness.

Kindness cures negativity.

Kindness is thoughtful.

Kindness is significant.

Kindness is honest.

Kindness is quiet.

Kindness does not coddle or enable.

Kindness is strength.

Kindness is respectful.

Kindness is steadfast.

Kindness is the beginning of love.

Kindness makes the world a better place!

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