30/08/2021

Why Kindness Still Matters

It feels like the ‘Be Kind’ movement has been diluted to nothing more than a hashtag, becoming almost satirical along with the sunflower lanyard, and other symbols that have been hijacked to represent something other than originally intended.

Those who have #BeKind in their Twitter bios and proudly displayed on their Facebook profiles, yet are openly malicious towards others, or share spiteful ‘All Lives Matter’ posts yet remain uncharacteristically mute over the Afghanistan crisis, seem to be the worst culprits.

I’m generalising of course, but it does seem that ‘Be Kind’ has become a get out of jail free card, a weak form of ammunition which now translates to, ‘don’t you dare hold me accountable for my actions’.

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I’ve written about the topic on here before so for context, this post has been inspired by three particular conversations I’ve had recently:

1 – My four-year-old niece nonchalantly told me that at her recent nursery graduation, she’d been awarded the ‘Most Likely to be Kind’ certificate. I enthusiastically began explaining how important that is, about how kindness matters more than how much money someone earns, or how big their house is, or where they come from, or what they look like. She had definitely zoned out by that point, but I’m proud she’s already mastering an invaluable interpersonal skill that many adults have yet to learn.

2 – During a conversation with a colleague, we got talking about values. We’ve come such a long way over the decades, yet things such as kindness and vulnerability are still mistakenly perceived as weakness, especially in the workplace. I’ve found that in my own experience, the opposite is true. Some of the most successful people I know lead with this powerful characteristic at the forefront of everything they do, resulting in productive, happy, and dedicated teams.

3 – I was listening to an old playlist when ‘Be More Kind’ by Frank Turner came on – this one technically isn’t a conversation but let’s not get bogged down with the details. I’m well versed in the lyrics, and it reminded me that we need to reclaim and amplify these mighty messages, more so than ever before in this current climate.

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I know it’s subjective, so for me, kindness isn’t about virtue signaling, or plastering on a smile through gritted teeth, or moving your own boundaries to appease others. It’s about being self-aware, and seeing others as equal human beings, with their own feelings and strengths and weakness, and extending the same courtesy and compassion that we have for ourselves to those around us.

I struggle with this sometimes. It’s easier to be self-centered and stay in our comfort zones than it is to allow ourselves to be truly vulnerable. Being aware of how our own actions can impact those around us takes hard work but the outcome is always worth it.

Kindness is powerful. It’s something that anyone can practice too, to help us define our actions, and leave a legacy we can be proud of. Let’s promise to be softer towards those in situations we may not fully understand. Let’s start listening without judgment, while remembering to hear the words from a place of love, not ego.

It doesn’t mean that we have to tolerate nonsense, nor absolve others of their own bad behaviour, but we can try looking at it through a lens of empathy instead of defaulting to anger or frustration. Most negative actions stem from fear or hurt or insecurity. There are people from my past who I choose not to interact with anymore, yet feel wholely indifferent about. No malice or hate or bitterness, just a boundary born from neutral kindness that ultimately freed us both.

I think it takes a great deal of bravery to be unapologetically altruistic, especially in situations where it can feel challenging; it’s almost an act of rebellion. Authentic kindness, when delivered with warmth and understanding, can help to build trust, solidarity, and respect, and foster even more kindness, like a marvellous ripple effect.

It’s important to be kind to yourself too; I don’t necessarily mean by lighting scented candles or grabbing the bath salts, but by allowing yourself access to the things you need to grow and thrive and learn and to be at peace. Forgive yourself for making mistakes, for the things you may still be working through, and for the times when you didn’t know any better.

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