World Kindness Day

13 Nov, 2020

Today is World kindness day and from my very small amount of googling to understand where World Kindness Day comes from, I read an article that Canada started to celebrate this in 2008. I think the idea of being kind particularly in our world right now is so important.  The way that I have understood kindness over my life has shifted. When I think about what is it to be kind? I came up with a few things that I have learned kindness is not.

Kindness is not letting people transgress your boundaries, it is not stopping yourself from saying something that matters because you don’t want to upset anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings. It is not spending so much time being kind to others that you are too exhausted to be kind to yourself and it is absolutely not filling everyone else’s needs even though you don’t have the time, energy or capacity to fill them.

Have you ever heard the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup?” I just recently saw a post somewhere online that said you should be pouring from the overflow of your cup. POOF my brain was blown! You mean we should be so kind to ourselves and filling our own needs that we aren’t even emptying our cup and that we give the excess??? There is excess???? Earth shattering for me to understand. For years and years, I gave and gave I’m not sure my cup was ever half full (or half empty depending on the space you are in today). When I reflect on what I thought was being kind I realize sometimes I’m not. I am not kind when I would hold back on my thoughts and feelings to keep others comfortable. I am not kind when I shrink myself down because I felt not good enough.  I am not kind when I am so busy that I am not giving myself the time and attention that I need.

Luckily, kindness is not finite. There are lots of times that I get to give or receive kindness and I am so grateful for that. There are a couple of things I have learned about kindness that I would love to share with you

  1. Be kind to yourself. I mean like REALLY REALLY be kind to yourself. I can’t for the life of me remember where I read (feels a bit either Glennon Doyle or Berne Brownish) but when the people in my life are talking poorly about themselves  I tell them “hey don’t talk about my friend that way!”. This has been so important to me for mutual accountability and to remind us to be kind to ourselves. When we are unkind to ourselves, we can struggle to be kind to others.
  2. Being clear is being kind. What this means to me is that when you are clear on your boundaries and in what you are saying that is kind because there is no room for interpretation. Being clear with yourselves and others is what kindness is made of.
  3.  You can be kind and still be firm
  4. Kindness is free it does not have to be a grand gesture or material item.

I was heading to a training out of town a few years ago. I had rushed out of the hotel and needed to get gas before arriving at the training and I was concerned I might be late. I was in Toronto and was anxious about the route to take to get where I was going. I pulled into the gas station and was already feeling frazzled. When I rolled down my window, I immediately said to the attendant can I please have $20 regular. It was in that moment that I received one of the kindest gifts. The attendant looked at me and said, “Good morning ma’am how are you today?” Immediately I exhaled and answered then asked him how he was this morning. He responded, and then went to grab my gas. While he was gone, I realized how caught up in my head I was. I was so rushed and nervous about getting somewhere late that I was not thinking of him as a person in this moment I was so stuck in my own stuff. I was being very unkind. His response of kindness to me changed not only that day but many other days in my life as I think of that exchange often. I thanked him before I left the gas station that morning, but I doubt that he knows how much that act of kindness changed me.

So on this World Kindness Day take a moment to be kind to reflect on what kindness is and what its not, then be kind to yourself first because you deserve it and finally, be kind to others they deserve it too.