I ask myself what exactly is it to be kind and how do I recognize this quality, and am I always kind? Do I think it always possible?
Being curious to know more and explore further, I got out my trusted Thesaurus, and found there were over forty qualities related to kindness.
I picked a few of the associated virtues to explore more fully.
I learned that in our relationships there are four qualities that we think of as showing kindness….
In close relationships it is good to have an understanding of why someone is feeling like they do. When you see someone displaying sadness, like crying, instead of ignoring how they feel, it is good to have a understanding of why they feel that way.
On learning of the reason, you then might feel sympathy for them, but being sympathetic doesn't mean you take it in for yourself and become sad too That's why when someone is grieving over the loss of a loved one, you may send them a sympathy card so your friend knows you understand and are sorry for their loss. Sending a card can be easier than moving into empathy.
Empathy is when you viscerally feel what they feel, and this feeling in you arises automatically."You put yourself in someone else's shoes" and can actually feel the sadness yourself. But empathy is not just about unpleasant feelings. It can be when you see someone and they are smiling and happy. They explain they have had a success and then you too feel that happiness and it makes you smile too.
Compassion takes understanding, empathy and sympathy a step further. When you are compassionate, or you recognize that the person is in pain (i.e., sympathy), you feel the pain of another (i.e., empathy), and then you do your best to alleviate the
person’s suffering. You suffer with them, but rather than being overwhelmed or running away you stay present with them. Compassion is a healing gift you give to another.
Some other aspects of being kind include…
Having good will mostly comes when you are on the same side with another and wanting the best for them; helping if you can. Maybe you will send out some prayers to them, or offer some positive encouragement. "I am rooting for you."
Showing good will is easier when you are not competing with anyone else and you feel confident, not threatened. But there may be those times when "ill will" comes up for you.
With this so-divided-country, there is a lot of ill will going around, especially starting with COVID and the vaccine mandates. With close to one third of the population choosing to ignore our government's strong suggestions, that to be unvaccinated means you could make someone else sick or even kill them. It was then you too may have felt ill will. And, on the other side, there may have been some gloating when someone took the vaccine and then got sick, as in "told you so".
Two opposing sides can make for ill will, and this is so apparent in our political elections. It is easy to feel happy when a candidate from the other side loses her run for office. Her loss is your gain. But, to be angry and raging or dismissing another as stupid is unkind. Can we not agree to disagree and leave it at that?
Patience with another might be considered a way of showing kindness. It can be seen when an elder has to walk slowly and you slow down your own fast pace to be with them. Patience can be seen when dealing with customer service people and being put "on hold, endlessly". When they finally pick up you are kind, knowing it is not their fault and so you do not lecture them and express disgruntlement over wasting your time. Those who are patient understand and accept "it is what it is".
I myself could be a lot more patient which would make me happier, as well as those I have to deal with. Instead of feeling and expressing my annoyances and irritation (as a fast moving person having to wait… for anything), I could be and should be more pleasant and agreeable.
Kindness does not have to be a big gesture. It can be shown in small ways, like the person in front of you at the check-out counter who sees you are looking tired, and tells you to go ahead. Or another driver at a four-way-stop motions to you that they will wait so you can go first. Even these small gestures show us that kindness is contagious and most likely you too will pass it on.