In the spirit of Christmas and everything that it truly stands for, I’ve been thinking about kindness. About loving your neighbour and not being a source of judgement but of light. And about how hard this is when everyone is so darn different in terms of backgrounds and values and, yes, personality.
Since it’s the end of the year, I wanted to reflect on the kind of kindness I’m striving for. I hope these tips for a kinder new year can be an encouragement to any readers who want to make changes that benefit both themselves and others.
Don’t judge what you don’t understand
Isn’t it amazing how everything you’ve gone through in the past has come together to shape who you are today? It’s Sociology 101: the people and institutions and cultures around us impact us profoundly. Meaning that there’s a lot that we can’t understand.
In terms of personality, it can be so easy to place people into categories that just don’t capture the big picture. Introverts look at extroverts and think they just talk to fill in the silence without purpose, while extroverts think we’re stuck up or shy or don’t have anything to say.
But how can you understand what it’s like to have a personality so different from yours? You can read about it in a blog, but it’s not the same. So don’t judge–just watch and listen and seek clarification when you can.
It’s the same with interacting with people who have different backgrounds. Someone sitting on the street asking for money has a unique story that has led them to where they are. Generalizations do no good, while compassion can go a long way.
Give the benefit of the doubt
Many people can take offense so easily to anything that seems like a personal attack. Maybe you get told that you should ‘speak up more’ or that you won’t be able to succeed in a certain profession unless you do x, y, and z.
It can help to keep in mind that not everyone is on the same page when it comes to being politically correct or respecting differences. Of course, often times we’d like to correct people when they say something that is hurtful, especially if it could hurt others too. Is there one best way to go about doing this? I’m still trying to figure that out. The first step is often to not go on to attack them right back, which can seem like the easiest route. Which leads to the next point…
Forget about what others ‘deserve’
Kindness shouldn’t be given as a reward. Someone who has slighted you, whether they meant to or not, deserves a smile and a compliment and praise just as much as anyone else. This may be difficult in practice, but it’s true.
I was reading a book a week or so ago by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, called In God’s Hands, in which he wrote that everyone is a “God-carrier.” He went on to say that if everyone were to truly believe this–that everyone was made in the image of God–we’d act differently towards each other. Just imagine the global difference.
Of course, your beliefs on God and related topics may differ from mine, but I mention this here just to point out that people are so much more than the labels we place on them. First and foremost they’re people, not extroverts or introverts or people who are a threat to you getting the job/promotion/seat on the bus/boxing day sale item that you want.
Look for the light in others, and have a happy 2016.