This last year I decided to let KINDNESS be my guide. The one word that would be on my mind and in my heart as I lived my life. And I learned a lot.
I learned that any time I make something a chore it becomes less fun for me. I did okay tweeting every day for a long time. Then it got a little more erratic. I think I pretty much stopped all together around July.
I also learned that choosing one word, one idea, to focus on for the year is awesome! I loved it so much more than I ever liked setting goals or resolutions. It works for me. Plus, it gave me plenty of time to really internalize things. Change takes time. Usually a lot longer than we think. A year allows for effort, failure, correction, learning, and more effort.
And I learned that I am so much happier when I am kind. I'm a pro at the quick, sarcastic quip, but I don't like being that person. It feels false. I like being genuine. I like saying what I mean. I like telling people how wonderful I think they are. I like choosing to ignore things that bug me so that others feel uplifted in my presence. And the more I choose to ignore those things, the less they bug me. The more kind I choose to be, the more beautiful the world becomes.
I can't speak for the entire world, but in America we live in a society that praises both kindness (openly) and unkindness (subtly). News stories of service and giving capture our interest and sometimes change our behavior for a while, but we sure do like our sarcasm and teasing. Our entertainment is filled with biting remarks. The verbal slam is what gets laughs and praise. There are entire tv shows dedicated to pulling pranks on people -- the soul purpose of which is to embarrass someone else for our entertainment. Political discourse is less about discussing a point of view and seeking to understand the other side than it is about tearing the other argument (and often, the other person) to shreds. We seem to say we want kindness, we like kindness, but our actions so often support the opposite side.
I've learned to keep my mouth shut more. Since my brain still isn't fully converted, I have to control what I can. The unkind thoughts still enter my head, but I can stop them from leaving my mouth. I'm not always successful, but I'm doing so much better.
And I've learned that listening is one of the most kind acts I can perform. So many people just need someone to listen to them. Not to fix things. Not to give advice. Just to listen. We all need our hearts to be heard. Honest listening, with support and love and an intent to understand, sends value to the speaker. There are just too many people who have no one to listen to them. Taking the time to truly listen fills my heart in a divine way. It makes me more than I was. It enhances me. It strengthens me. Listening is a good thing.
I've also learned that being kind sometimes means speaking up. Maybe it's the compliment I thought in my head but wouldn't always say in the past. Say it. It matters. Or it's asking others to stop or change the conversation when it becomes unkind, even if it's about someone not present. It may not ever get back to that person to hurt them, but staying silent hurts me. Staying silent is participating. It's passively saying that behavior is okay. And it's not.
And I've learned that as with most things, it's more difficult to be kind with family. And it's more important.
I notice kindness so much more. There are so many kind acts every day, everywhere I go. I notice unkindness more as well. There's still way too much of that. And I notice how my efforts to change and be more kind make a difference. I am changing the world. One person, one moment, at a time.
Kindness will go forward with me. It is a part of me now. It's in my heart. But I've already chosen my word for next year and can't wait to get started. More on that next week.