Don't worry--Being kind isn't a sign that you're "weak"

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There aren’t reality shows that highlight kindness as a virtue.

If we see kindness, it’s a 5-minute spot on the nightly news — rarely a feature story.

And I think I know why.

Kindness isn’t sensational. It’s quiet and unassuming.

Whereas emotions like anger and shame create huge responses, kindness plods along, one step after another, until it gets where it’s going.

But you’re probably wondering:

Who cares?

Why kindness is important

Kindness is important because there are hundreds of opportunities each day to make decisions about how you will act.

If you makes a lot of small decisions to be kind, eventually they will build up into something big.

And the small-becomes-big phenomenon will change your life.

Take this example:

Did someone insult you?

You have a choice now.

You could either:

1. Retaliate and prove that person wrong.

2. Respond with kindness.

One response inflames the situation.

The other is disarming because it catches your fiery foe off guard.

The person who attacks you is looking for a fight. No one verbally assaults another so that they can receive kindness in return. But that’s exactly what they need the most.

Responding with genuine kindness is a tremendous opportunity.

It teaches the person doing the attacking that the world doesn’t always work in predetermined ways.

It teaches the attacker that sometimes there are people who learn to control their emotions — and who use them to their advantage.

This is how the world changes — because of the ones who eschew predetermined roles and automatic responses.

The world evolves when individuals gain the awareness to notice the old and sorry patterns bringing them down — and then choose to step aside for a second to let the raging bull storm past.

The world changes for the better when we choose kindness.

At this point, you might be rolling your eyes.

But really think about this for a second.

When does kindness NOT work in your favor?

I’m not saying that you should be a pushover. I’ve been called that in the past, and it didn’t sit very well with me.

I wanted to retaliate. My head immediately started creating stories about why I was right and my accuser was wrong.

My mind started searching for endless examples of how I was absolutely not a pushover — of how I definitely did not let people take advantage of me.

But it didn’t matter. And it still doesn’t.

Rumination doesn’t help.

It’s rarely the content that is important. It’s responding kindly to the content that matters.

It was only after I was able to calm my inflamed brain down that I could be gentle and kind with myself.

I could take an honest look at how I was feeling — and decide whether or not what I had been called was actually true for me.

After I pondered it, I realized that it affected me because there was some truth to what people were saying.

For much of my life, I had been too nice. I had let people take advantage of me.

But then I realized something: there is a big difference between being kind and immediately giving in to whatever is asked of me.

I realized that I wasn’t doing anyone any favors by giving into my automatic responses.

By taking time to think it over, I learned about myself. I changed.

I realized that I’m not being kind to myself if I take on too much.

And I’m not being kind to others when I fail to put up boundaries and honestly explain my current capacity.

There is honesty in kindness. Plain, unadorned honesty.

How can kindness transform YOUR life?

None of this means anything if it can’t improve your life.

Are there opportunities for you to replace an automatic response of yours with kindness?

How would that change your life for the better?

Think about the events of the past few days that produced the biggest emotional response in you or in others.

1. Could you have been kinder?

2. Could you have offered a helping hand?

3. Could you have put up a boundary, be it physical or emotional?

4. Could you have taught a lesson with an unconventional response?

Because you have to remember this: You teach others how to treat you.

 olive-skinned man and woman sitting on wooden bench with woman smiling and looking at man

Do you want to be known as the person who automatically reacts — the one who immediately goes on the defensive?

Or do you want to be the person who steps back, thinks it over, and chooses the kinder path?