Let’s face it: our social and emotional muscles may have atrophied a bit during the pandemic. With renewed strength and vigor, let’s approach the world with more kindness, recommends our Austin-based Resonance Repatterning expert, Mary Schneider.
WHERE ARE YOU, KINDNESS?
Has kindness disappeared? If it has, where did it go? And why? Is kindness a casualty of what transpired in the past few years? Asking this question of ourselves is important. There are those who think this is true, believing kindness in our culture has atrophied since the pandemic. Much anecdotal evidence seems to support the truth of this claim. Stories come from all cultures and parts of the country. Could it be possible that fear and isolation have lessened our ability to be generous and concerned about others without expecting praise or reward? If this is the case, we can take steps to roll it back to pre-covid standards post-haste.
Kindness is human nature. It is innate. Experiments with infants conducted at Yale University concluded it is inherent in human beings. Even in observing young children at play, their empathy (among other things) is often revealed. Kindness also has intrinsic value. In their book, On Kindness, Barbara Taylor and Adam Phillips stressed how “real kindness changes people, often in unpredictable ways.” This idea suggests that kindness is transformational for all parties and supports the fact that kindness is much more than just being nice. As an example, I personally experienced this over the course of a decade of holiday seasons. My friends and I would buy carloads full of toys and take them to Blue Santa. Transforming our holidays in unexpected ways was more fun and joyful knowing that others, much less fortunate, had the opportunity to encounter the same.
Kindness is a virtue. It is written about in countless books, some published before the time of Christ. A topic frequently referred to in the Bible, kindness shows up in other important spiritual texts. With its sister-virtue, humility, kindness is a pre-requisite for many other virtues. Humility begets kindness; kindness begets humility. Plus, not unlike humility, if you think you have it, you probably don’t.
Others describe kindness as a skill, possibly contradicting Yale’s research. This belief suggests kindness is a learned behavior. Maybe true for some, this idea seems to negate the innate nature of kindness. Genuine kindness is a radical act. For a while, the bumper sticker Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty graced scores of cars. At the very least, ‘random’ and ‘senseless’ indicate enthusiastic unpredictability, while ‘skill’ implies a modicum of predictability and uniformity.
Kindness is much more than just being nice, emerges here. Either way, nature or nurture, kindness includes the absence of the need for recognition. Long before the appearance of Christ, Wikipedia writes, “Aristotle defined kindness as ‘helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped’.”
So, where are we today pre-post-covid? What might be the most fitting and proper behavior to commit to during this holiday season? Given it has been some time since we wholeheartedly embraced celebrating, it might behoove us to create an intention. An intention marking the revival of Christmas, New Year’s, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Boxing Day, St. Nicholas Day, and other holidays may be in order. Let’s commit to reminding one another that kindness is innately human.
Remembering who we are in our essence and recalling how it looks and feels, let’s pledge ourselves to random acts of kindness and senseless beauty once again. Without expecting praise or reward, it could be the stylish-hip-sophisticated thing for the yuletide season, for there is nothing more hip, stylish or sophisticated than being kind to others…and ourselves.