Kind of a big deal.

Dear friends,

Kindness (no pun intended) is kind of a big deal for me.

What I mean is — I strive to be kind, in word and in deed. And I expect you to return the favor. It’s not that I’m a quid-pro-quo kind of gal. I’m  not. But I believe kindness is our most effective social currency. I try to spread it around liberally (it makes me feel good, it makes you feel good, so why not?), and I’m always puzzled and a little sad when someone else doesn’t.

I fell in love with Mr. Mom for many reasons, but I can say without reservation the chief reason is that he’s kind. In fact, my mother said two things about him after she met him for the first time. First: Lordy, that’s the skinniest boy I’ve ever seen. Second: He’s very kind.  My mother always did know how to get to the point.

To make sure my point is clear, I think it’s important to define what I mean by kind.  Kind people are thoughtful. They are empathetic. They extend the benefit of the doubt. They grant favors, particularly unsolicited ones. They forgive easily and quickly. They spread love through kind words and strive to leave others feeling better than they found them.

I’ve been thinking for a couple of weeks now about a post on this topic. There’s a woman I know who I’ll refer to as Jane.  Jane goes out of her way to avoid kindness. I’m not saying Jane is mean, although she has been unkind to me on a few occasions. Mostly what I notice is a complete absence of kindness in her demeanor, meaning you don’t feel a scrap of love or empathy or thoughtfulness when you interact with her.

Even when I extend a kind word to Jane, she has trouble accepting it. (Or I must assume she has trouble accepting it because she never comments, nor offers the customary “thank you.”)

Joan: You look really nice today. I like your dress.

Jane: <silence>

I try not to interpret silence as hostility but, frankly, it’s difficult. And I’m human, so if I think you’re hostile toward me, I tense up. I get defensive. I avoid you. Eventually, I might even justify thinking unkind thoughts about you because you started it, for Pete’s sake! And, best I can tell, Jane has many difficult relationships, so it’s not like it’s my problem.  (How’s that for one big, juicy rationalization? Jane started it and it’s all her fault!)

But Jane is a woman I really can’t be unkind to, so I’ve spent a lot of time trying to crack the code. And nothing, nada, I’ve tried has worked. This is unusual for me because I’ve cracked a lot of codes in my lifetime. I’m known to be good with people. And so failing with Jane just makes me feel worse about me and worse about her.

Until the other day. When I tripped across this sentiment while browsing the internet:

Source: La Boom

Notice it’s reminding us to be kind to ourselves rather than others. I wondered why for a moment, then I realized that kindness, like charity, starts at home. If you cannot be kind to yourself, you can’t possibly be kind to others.

And imagine how you would feel if your Brain never said one kind word to your Self. Your Self would feel under attack by that biatch the Brain, and — when under attack — Self’s first instinct is to pull in, toughen the exterior, put out the vibe You can’t touch me.

This notion gave me pause. I don’t know much about Jane, but I know she grew up disadvantaged. And based on how hard she is on others, I can only imagine how hard she is on herself . . . and how hard somebody from her past must have been on her to make Jane believe she needed to keep it up, even in the face of kindness from others.

Somehow, this helps me. It inspires me to keep extending the kindnesses, even if Jane continues to rebuff me. Whatever kind word or deed I extend to Jane might just be the only one she gets that day, from the people around her or from herself. And that’s a powerful motivator, I find. How about you?

With gratitude {for a mother and grandmother who instilled in me enough confidence and hope to properly cultivate kindness to myself and others},

Joan, who usually finds all the answers she needs when the questions stop being about her