Monday, June 4, 2012

The Kindness Project -- 6 Months In

As the new year began I decided I wanted one word to focus on.  One idea to center my life around.  I chose kindness.  After a month I decided to broaden my vision a bit to include elements connected to kindness.  I'm six months into it now and guess what -- I'm perfect at it!

I am kind all the time to everyone I meet.  Every word I speak is kind.  Every thought I have is kind.  Every action I take.  Even my gestures.  I just radiate kindness.

Well, no.   But I wish that were true.

I am truthful and direct by nature most of the time.  This means that sometimes stupid things come out of my mouth.  I don't mean them to be hurtful, but apparently they are.  I can tell because I see the look on the person's face.  Or I miss the reaction completely and find out later because a friend of a friend has the courage to tell me.  And there are probably many times when I never find out at all. 

But I am trying.  I work harder to think before I speak.  I let the possible laugh go because the words might hurt.  I worry less about what I want to say and more about how I'd like the people with me to feel.  I want the people I'm with to feel valued.  I'm making a special effort to put away the snide and invite the sincere.

And there are times when I know it would be kind to go over and talk to someone who is alone.  To say hi to the person at the store I haven't seen in a long time.  To reach out.  But I don't.  Because, more often than not, I am scared.  That they won't remember me.  That they never really liked me.  That I imagined a relationship that was never really there.  That they are too cool for me.  That I will say something stupid.  Or a hundred other things.  Basically, that I am inadequate and not worthy of their time.  (Yes, this is a psychological hangup I have from my childhood.  I'm working on it.)  Basically I get so worked up about me that I forget about them.

I haven't worked much on this.  I need to.  I could do better.  I am pretty friendly and kind once I am invited into a conversation; I'm just not good at inviting myself.

There are some people it's very easy to be kind to.  There are days it's easy to be kind.  And then there are other people and other days.

I don't want who I am talking with to determine whether or not I am kind.  I don't want a bad day to squelch my kindness.  I want to be a person who is kind.  Period. 

The thing I'm working on most is my thoughts.  I grew up in a house full of very sarcastic people.  I am fluent in two languages:  English and sarcasm.  I am equally powerful on the defensive or on the attack.  And I hate it.  Like someone who has spent a great deal of time in another country automatically thinks things in that language first, I too often hear those snotty comebacks in my head before I ever think something nice. 

There is a language of kindness.  I am not a native speaker.  I know a lot of the words, but I am not fluent yet.  I can understand it better than I speak it.  But I am reminding myself more often to think in kindness.  Not just to push a mean or judgmental thought away, but to sense when it's starting and step on it.

Change takes time and focus.  I will be patient.  And as often as I can, I will be kind.

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Blogger Bonnie Atkinson said...

I think you are doing fabulous! It takes such courage to swallow the witty response when we may have grown up finding value in our ability to distance ourselves from people by our wit. It's an act of faith to be silent as often as it's an act of faith to jump out there.

I have to laugh at myself for getting upset recently about an online attack I took from an abrasive intellectual. I should know better than to let it bother me, but I forgot temporarily that God is more concerned with how people feel after I've dealt with them than how smart anyone thinks I am. Thanks for the reminder that I am free to be me!

Can I still do raised-eyebrow irony?

June 4, 2012 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger MaggieJo said...

I grew up in sarcasm also. I remember where I was the first time it occurred to me that instead of thinking of the perfect snide remark I could have said to win, I could think of the kind thing to say. It was revolutionary! Like you, I find my first thoughts are still rude but I work on saying the kind thing.

June 4, 2012 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger MaggieJo said...

It's easier for me to put the witty remark aside because I usually don't have any. Haha, never thought of that as a gift before. Thanks for opening my eyes!

June 4, 2012 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Rubye Jack said...

Can't help it. I love sarcasm as long as it's not cruel. It makes me laugh. The thing is many people don't get it and so it becomes a bit mean to be sarcastic around them. Ah well. I'm working on this friendliness thing also. Before I even open my door I now lecture myself on being nice to whoever is on the other side. Sometimes it works. :)

June 4, 2012 at 5:34 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Trying to work on things is the first step. Sometimes it's hard to be kind especially when you're not around it. Sounds like you're on a great path!!!

June 4, 2012 at 7:37 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Making the first step is half the battle won. You're doing great!

June 4, 2012 at 11:48 PM  
Anonymous Julie Jordan Scott said...

Your post is incredibly thoughtful. This speaks so much about you! I was raised in a family of sarcastic people and raised my children to NOT speak sarcasm at all. Well, it gets tough at family gatherings when my children don't clue into the patter.

Stay patient and stay conscious. Your kindness WILL continue to increase.

PS - Thank you for your visits and comments at my blog!

June 5, 2012 at 11:51 AM  
Anonymous Raquel said...

Great post about the importance of kindness. I agree that some days are difficult than other. But the world is a lot more fun when people are kind.

Thank you for stopping by my blog.

June 5, 2012 at 8:15 PM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

This is more than half the battle "to sense when it's starting and step on it."
Well said.

June 6, 2012 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Sorta Southern Single Mom said...

Another very powerful post. You middle paragraph, where you talk about going up and being kind to people who are alone... I can so relate. My mother has that gift. She is kind in that manner... I am more like my father...reserved and shy until I am comfortable. To try to go up to someone like's physically painful!

I think we have a tendency to focus on how we are failing, but I bet just being conscious of it is making you kinder than you realize!

June 7, 2012 at 4:06 AM  
Blogger Audrey said...

"To say hi to the person at the store I haven't seen in a long time. To reach out. But I don't. Because, more often than not, I am scared. That they won't remember me. That they never really liked me."

I bet they will remember you for your kindness in coming up to them the next day, even if they didn't remember you from 10 years ago.

June 7, 2012 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Natalie said...

I really love this post...and I totally feel this way sometimes. Sometimes I am very kind and others I'm just in a hurry to get where I am going. Love that you said you were fluent in English and sarcasm--I would say the same thing about my husband haha. Thanks for stopping by my blog from SITS :)

June 7, 2012 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger Tiffany said...

This is totally me: I am truthful and direct by nature most of the time. This means that sometimes stupid things come out of my mouth.


I don't intend to be unkind, but sometimes my very no-nonsense, say what you mean approach comes across wrong to people who aren't the same way. I applaud you for trying, and you have inspired me to do the same.

But I think it's going to be just a little tough...

June 7, 2012 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger Eva Gallant said...

With five kids, it's amazing you're not a total basket case! Congrats on maintaining your sanity. I'm impressed that you are working hard to become a kind person....we all should follow your example.

I just stopped by from SITS to say hi; hope you find time to return the visit.

June 8, 2012 at 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Tammy said...

"I worry less about what I want to say and more about how I'd like the people with me to feel."

Thank you for that. Wow. It stopped me dead in my tracks. Like many of the commenters, my brain doesn't work as quickly as I would like, so I do spend more time thinking of what I could say than making sure the person feels as if I truly listened.

What an excellent goal to strive for over a lifetime. We can't be perfect with every experience, but I hope in the future I will do this more often than I don't.

June 8, 2012 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger May said...

First, the photo in your header made me burst out laughing!

I really love the end when you are talking about the two languages of sarcasm and kindness. Such a great and apt analogy.
I too grew up fluent in sarcasm. Most of what we said in this way was about being clever not so much mean. But to people who didn't grow up with such edgy wit, it really does feel mean.
Thank you for the reminder today to be kind. I know I needed it.

June 8, 2012 at 9:48 AM  
OpenID jesterqueen said...

I understand those languages, too. And I understand that lack of confidence with people, especially, that feeling of, "maybe they'd rather not talk to ME of all people". Of course, being me, I seem to always blunder in and talk anyway, but I never really lose that uncertainty, even though it never really shows.

June 8, 2012 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Leslie, The Cleaning Coach said...

Thanks for stopping by my site! I like your post on kindness. I learned log ago that the latin root for sarcastic means to rip or tear apart. I've always remembered that when I'm getting ready to use my "wit". Have a great day! and happy cleaning!

June 8, 2012 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Blond Duck said...

But it's wonderful you're trying!

June 8, 2012 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger I Wonder Wye said...

Choosing to be kind -- when you put the intent out there by body language, smiles and engaging words, you put positive energy onto the world...and more times than not, the people you interact with soften too...many times when I confront someone short-tempered, blase, sarcastic...when I treat them with compassion I can see the tension lift their shoulders and they perk up. I think most of us want to be 'heard.' This is fabulous of you....

June 8, 2012 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger The Roving Retorter said...

Love this. Lots of people who aren't sarcastic or outspoken think those 2 qualities are mutually exclusive with kindness.

June 8, 2012 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Tricia said...

I love your focus on this. I am also pretty fluent in sarcasm and working on thinking (and therefore being) kinder. It does take time and it is admirable that you saw this about yourself and are working to change. Good for you!

June 9, 2012 at 5:58 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

One thing is for sure, change is difficult but you sound like our are moving in the right direction. I enjoyed checking out your blog.

And for stopping by and saying hi. It is always fun meeting new bloggers.

June 9, 2012 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger Tina L. Hook said...

Stopping by from SITS today and I'm in love with this post. I wish we could all be so self aware and open to change.

Cheering you on.

June 11, 2012 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger WhisperingWriter said...

Great post.

I also try very hard to be kind.

June 12, 2012 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Lucy McCracken said...

I love your post! I too work on learning and applying this language "kindness" into my daily walk. What a great reminder to be cautious of our actions and words and to choose to be kind :)

June 14, 2012 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Lacey said...

Thanks for visiting me! I'm learning the whole keep quiet and listen part of kindness. About to hit 4 years of marriage and I am learning how sarcastic and talky I am. He needs my ear more.

June 14, 2012 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

I love this post. It's so easy for me to be kind to kind people, but not so much to others. I'm working on that, and also on giving grace. Life can make us harder (I was much kinder in some ways when I was younger.) I want to be a person who is kind, period, also. My mom used to say "fruit of the spirit!" a lot to remind herself!

June 15, 2012 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger doseofreality said...

Absolutely brilliant post. I have a tendency to think in sarcasm as well. And it is quite difficult to change the channel in your head when that is your default setting. Good for you for making a conscious choice to do so.

June 15, 2012 at 8:45 AM  

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