There is something extremely liberating about acts of kindness. Especially true, genuine kindness with no strings attached.
One small act towards us can turn our whole day around. One small act neglected can crush and disappoint for days, sometimes growing into resentment and bitterness.
I consciously try to be the giver of kindness whenever I can. Sometimes I can be very deliberate, thinking about what the other person would like, trying to act somewhat selflessly. Sometimes I succeed.
Other times I am surprised that others consider what I do without thinking as an act of kindness and I find it a bit difficult to accept thanks because I didn’t act deliberately, just out of my own instinct. I learn from these moments and when I reflect on them I am gratified that my true nature is more kindness than not. But I am also challenged at other times as to my motivation, and the shadow of my true nature is revealed.
I have provided my husband breakfast in bed, for most days of our 20 years of marriage. If I added them all up, it would be at least 19 ½ of those 20 years (that’s over 7,000 times), he gets a cup of tea and a bowl of muesli, usually ready on his bedside table before he opens his eyes. Most would see this as an act of kindness.
He usually remembers to thank me, but not always. Occasionally he will get me breakfast instead if we both are still in bed when he wakes up – which is unusual as I am an early to bed, early to rise person – which is opposite to him.
Mostly I do this out of genuine kindness, but not always.
Sometimes it’s because I need him to get up and get on with the day according to my expectations – there is something I need or want him to do and in my head, a good part of the day has already passed. So I do it out of wanting something in return.
Sometimes I do it begrudgingly, even if I am cranky with him, because when I am putting the kettle on and getting my own breakfast it seems wrong to not get something ready for him too, so usually I do. So I question is this out of duty or a sense of obligation?
I am open about this and choose to continue to act under these basic three assumptions to deliver his daily break of fast - genuine kindness out of love; fulfilling my own need for him to get up; and out of habit or duty.
But even though I do it willingly, I am sometimes not happy about it and I wonder if it is a true kindness?
I looked up kindness on google – the common definition goes something like this.
the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate
But that seems too trite to me, it’s a little shallow and leaves me wanting more. When kindness is given freely and without expectation I know it leaves me feeling worthy and valued and I assume others feel the same way when I act in kindness towards them.
And bingo I think that is where my problem begins.
I actually have an expectation and sense of entitlement that because I am kind, others will be kind to me in return, because of, and by, accepting my kindness. But it doesn’t always happen like that. Sometimes my kindness is not noticed, or valued, or returned – and often I’m not too happy about that.
So my search for the true meaning of kindness goes on. Here are some interesting things I found on my search.
Confucius says: (we can’t argue with Confucius can we?) Act with kindness, but do not expect gratitude.
Dan Kelly says:
The effects of kindness are not always seen immediately. Sometimes it takes years until your kindness is paid off and is returned to you. And sometimes you never see the fruits of your labours, but they are there, deep inside the soul of the ones you touched.
The Side Effects of Kindness Published on May 30, 2011 by David R. Hamilton PhD Click to read more from David Hamilton (more next week)
Kindness Improves Relationships
This is one of the most obvious points. We all know that we like people who show us kindness. This is because kindness reduces the emotional distance between two people and so we feel more ‘bonded’. It’s something that is so strong in us that it’s actually a genetic thing. We are wired for kindness.
So when we are kind to each other we feel a connection and new relationships are forged, or existing ones strengthened.
Kindness is Contagious
When we’re kind we inspire others to be kind and studies show that it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends – to 3-degrees of separation. Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so acts of kindness ripple outwards touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.
One thing I think we constantly overlook however, is being kind to ourselves.
Merelyn’s writing is supported in part by the sale of her books. Autobiography - ‘The Deepest Part of Me’. ‘Inspire’ – inspirational reflections for your life’s journey. ‘Stories behind the Songs’ and her first children’s picture book ‘To The Moon and Back - Grandma’s Rocket Ship Adventure’. To find out more about her work and to support her through the purchase of her writings and music, please go to www.carterandcarter.com.au