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.
‘Compliments of the season’ is a phrase that’s bandied about a lot in December, isn’t it? I’ve used it myself on occasion, although I do try to be a bit more original. It comes in handy when you’re dealing with someone you don’t know well, and you’re not sure if they celebrate Christmas or not, but two posts on Facebook got me thinking yesterday – shouldn’t compliments be available for every season?
The first post carried the legend, ‘Be an encourager – the world has plenty of critics already.’ I liked, shared, and commented, and thought how very true this is. The newspapers, TV and social media are overflowing with criticism of everything and everyone, but how much actual encouraging stuff do you see? Not all that much, because when people do post the good stuff, they often feel the need to say something like, ‘Here’s something positive for a change,’ or something similar. And good news doesn’t sell papers, unless it’s a royal wedding or baby.
I was still pondering this when another meme showed up on my newsfeed. This one really spoke to me out loud, because it mirrors my own feelings exactly. It went like this:
If you look for something to criticise, you will find it. If you look for something to compliment, you will find that, too. Your choice.
It’s definitely a choice you make. I don’t mean you should glide through life always being happy about everything – that would be extremely irritating for everyone around you. Nor should you habitually accept poor service and bad behaviour rather than risking offending someone or ‘causing a fuss.’ I can, and do, criticise – firmly, fulsomely and fervently – when it’s necessary. I won’t tolerate bad service, rudeness or bullying, and I will state my case and ask for appropriate action from the offender or offenders, whether it’s Tracy at the local bar having a bad day and taking it out on the customers, or big corporations.
However, I don’t go looking for something to complain about, whether I’m shopping, eating out, buying something nice or heading off on holiday. It’s all an adventure in this thing called life, and I expect to enjoy myself. I find that I pretty much always do, because I’m looking for a good time, and if that’s what I get, I compliment the people involved.
Going back to Christmas, I was stunned a couple of years ago when, just after the festivities were over, I called into our local butcher to tell the staff just how much we’d enjoyed our free range turkey crown, Aberdeen Angus beef joint and smoked gammon. The manager was taken aback, because I was only the second person to go in and say how much we’d enjoyed our meat, whereas theyd had complaints that this or that wasn’t right. Some of the complaints were justified, because when you’re serving thousands of customers over a few days with thousands of kilos of meat and other stuff, there’s bound to be the odd thing that slips through the net.
However, sometimes, the complaints were that the joint was not big enough, the turkey was too dry, or even ‘Little Johnny didn’t like it.’ All of these issues were not the butcher’s responsibility – the quantity of meat, the cooking methods, and Little Johnny’s latest food fads are down to the buyer, not the seller. It’s as if some people are looking for something to criticise and someone to blame, because Christmas wasn’t everything they’d thought it would be. It rarely is – because life in general is neigher perfectly good, nor perfectly bad. It is what it is, and you can’t change it.
However, you can change your outlook, and you can change your reactions. Look for the good things, because there are plenty of them there, if you look with joy and love for life. Babies, children and dogs live in the now, and enjoy the moment, and all that comes with it. Be more baby, be more dog.
For some time now, I’ve made sure I pay at least one sincere compliment every day. If I can’t do it in person – which I prefer – I’ll do it on social media. And if it’s been a particularly busy or trying day, and I get to bed and realise I haven’t paid anyone a compliment, I’ll tell my dog Paddy what a good boy he is. Even though I do that lots of times a day, it’s pretty much automatic – I do it without thinking about it. Actually considering why you want to say something nice is good for the soul, because it reminds you of the beautiful person you’re talking to, or the lovely thing that just happened. Conscious compliments are the best compliments of all – it’s too easy to just say something nice because you think it’s expected, or because somebody else just did, and you don’t want to be left out.
Sincere compliments are given with no thought of the feedback you may get – they come from the heart, and are all about the person you are complimenting. You want to say something nice to make them feel good, not you. And if they seem awkward about accepting your compliment, maybe that’s just because they’re not used to hearing nice things. So pay them another compliment, and make their day.
Sincere compliments take just a moment to deliver, but they can have a lasting impact on lives. People who feel good about themselves want to spread the love, and they’ll be nice to others, because they remember how you made them feel when you said they had a wonderful smile, or you enjoyed their song on the karaoke, or whatever it was.
Compliments of the season? Let’s make compliments a feature of every season, shall we? Starting now.