Were you able to do kindnesses for yourself everyday this past week? Did you find it hard or easy? If you were able to, do you feel better in yourself? Do you feel more able to do more for others? If you found it hard, did you stop to work out why?
A few years ago I did some casual research on people working in the ‘Caring industry’. I’d been mentoring several people who were very kind in their hearts but were burning out big time by giving, giving, giving – not just in their personal lives, but as their chosen job. The more research I did the more it seemed to me that it was a bit of an epidemic among those who choose ‘Caring’ as their profession. I started to wonder why?
More research indicated that there is a trend for people who have suffered themselves, to reach out to others with an aim to alleviate the other’s suffering. I totally get this. If we have suffered ourselves then it can be easier to empathise with others and show more compassion and understanding - to extend greater kindness than might otherwise be possible. This can be true whether it is our chosen field of work or not.
But why the high burnout rate?
It seems that some of the people who choose these career paths do so with unresolved issues around their own personal suffering – which ultimately affects their ongoing health - physical, emotional and spiritual. They help others with the feeling of ‘I can’t make my own life better, so I will do everything I can to make someone else’s life better.’ Because of this need in themselves, they often over give and eventually (or quickly) burn out, putting their own health at even greater risk. Sometimes they give their kindness in inappropriate ways to the receiver, causing hurt and rejection which highlights their own needs further.
I got to thinking - is this the kind of thing many of us do at times? Do we over give because we are trying to make ourselves feel better, but it doesn’t work and we get hurt. Is this because we haven’t learnt to be kind to ourselves first?
Sometimes we get ourselves in situations where the over giving becomes a bigger issue and we end up threatening our own health and sometimes we end up feeling bitter and jaded because our kindness isn’t received the way we hoped and we feel rejected. This rejection can then highlight our own unresolved issues further and so the cycle goes on.
So I started to wonder if I could further define what kindness is and also what kindness is not!
Google is my friend again…
From Becoming Who You Are - BLOG (CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THIS BLOG)
Kindness is accepting where other people are, and not trying to change them.
Kindness is telling someone when we feel upset with something they said or did.
Kindness is finding compassion and understanding for where they’re at, while maintaining our own boundaries and respecting our own needs.
Kindness is accepting that it might mean a toxic relationship is over – because we can’t change other people.
Kindness isn’t lending someone money when you know they’re going to spend it on drugs, alcohol, or rack up more debt. Kindness is telling them you’re not going to lend them money and doing what you reasonably can to support them through their journey.
Kindness is acting without expectation of reciprocity or recognition (although there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it). Kindness is an anonymous donation, it’s a surprise email with no expectation of a reply.
Kindness is respecting other people’s boundaries. It’s trusting that that person knows what’s best for them. Ignoring those boundaries is not kind.
Sometimes kindness means saying: “No.”
The definition of kindnessis the act of being caring or warm in spirit.
I really like the part of ‘being warm in spirit’. This indicates to me that true kindness is comes from the depths of our hearts and souls, the warmth we have inside bubbles out to help others along their path. A Spanish definition says that kindness ‘helps others accomplish their things’.
So to be able to do true acts of kindness, to help others accomplish their things, we need to have that warmth inside us, and to get that we must be kind to ourselves first.
Are you seeing the circle?
This is of course, just the first brick or two in the tower of understanding kindness. I think it’s a topic that deserves much more consideration and I welcome your comments.
My conclusion is; if we want to find our own happiness as well as make the world a better place, we must make a conscious decision to find the freedom in giving AND receiving kindness. Kindness is being considerate towards ourselves first so that we can extend it to others, practicing patience and tolerance, being sensitive to our own and other’s boundaries, and even though kindness may not always be immediately returned, it’s knowing that it is about the bigger picture – about recognising our place and purpose in the universe, and being grateful.
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