There’s a lot of talk about kindness right now, following the recent tragic suicide of Caroline Flack. The former Love Island presenter was due to face trial charged with assaulting her boyfriend. Mental health problems and pressure from mainstream media and social media trolls proved too much for her.
Just a couple of days before she died alone at home, Caroline put out a message saying:
In a world where you can be anything, be kind.
It has become her epitaph, and people are adding ‘Be Kind’ to their social media profiles, and urging people to check on fragile friends and family members. While it’s an admirable sentiment, there are a couple of flaws in this theory.
The first problem is, such an all-encompassing, sweeping statement just adds to the distress of the deceased’s friends and family. We tend to blame ourselves when a loved one passes in these circumstances, and they will have already been thinking along the lines of, ‘Why didn’t I do enough/say enough/support her more/visit more?’ You can probably add other ‘Why’s’ and ‘If only’s’ to this list – the permutations are endless.
The second issue is more complex. Kindness can work miracles, but in some cases, it’s just not enough. When someone is in the grip of a deep, all-consuming depression, they can’t be saved – or pushed over the edge – by kindness alone.
When true depression hits, reasoning leaves by the fire exit, and the object of your kindness may not even recognise it for what it is. When you can’t even process your own motives and feelings, nothing else has any impact, positive or negative. All you want to do is make it stop.
Kindness in its purest, most helpful state of being can’t be turned on and off like a tap, or the central heating. It’s a state of being and a way of living. It’s not something you’re born with, either, although it is something you can and should nurture and cultivate in yourself.
Kindness is like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes, and the stronger you become as a result. It emanates from you, and is noticeable without the need to draw attention to it. You can’t hide it, because, just like ripped muscles, it’s there for all to see in the way you carry yourself.
On the other side of the coin, if you don’t exercise kindness regularly, just like muscles, it will waste away from your being. And again, it will be aparrent to everyone around you. Your body may not be out of condition, but your soul certainly will be, and it will show on the exterior.
Just as muscles cannot be built up overnight, nor can kindness. You don’t need to work hard to build kindness, but it does require regular practice. It can’t be emphasised enough – kindness is not a trend that will be forgotten when the Next Big Thing hits the news and social media. Just two weeks after everyone’s news feed was full with ‘Be Kind’ memes and hearts, the Coronavirus hype has taken over, and suddenly everyone is a public health pundit.
So, how can we best cultivate and utilise kindness? Lead by example, and do it quietly. If you plaster evidence of your kindness all over the place, it doesn’t come from the soul, it comes from the ego. Kindness does not need recognition or validation.
True kindness is its own reward, because when we help someone with words, thoughts or actions, we vibrate at a higher level of energy, and we feel better about ourselves. Not because everyone knows about it and is congratulating us, but because, thanks to something we did, another human being feels better about themselves and their situation than they did previously.
Be kind – always. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone – including yourself. True kindness really does make the world a better place. Let’s spread it far and wide.