I received an upsetting comment on my website, and I’d like to talk about it. This wasn’t my first insensitive comment and I’m sure it won’t be my last. Typically, I delete the comments and try to forget them. But in this case, the hurtful words really got me thinking about the topic of kindness. In my mind, kindness is a critically important topic in our world. Yet I rarely see it discussed anywhere, so I’ll try…
Here’s the comment I got (warning: strong language):
“Your site SUCKS! How the f*&# am i supposed to read the instructions online if your f&*#ing ads keep blocking all the instructions? Get better at making a f&*#ing website you f*&@ing amateur.”
-This is a direct quote, aside from the fact that the individual spelled out the offensive words that I covered. The person entered their email as: StopSucking@EatS*&#(dot)com. The comment was in response to a chicken recipe I posted.
For anyone who has attempted any kind of online presence, you probably know about the heartless side of the internet. When people have the opportunity to hide behind their screens, their darker side sometimes come out in full display.
Here’s the root of the problem, in my opinion: we think we have a right to judge who deserves our kindness.
The world begins to teach us this lesson when we’re little kids. If you do well on your spelling test, for example, you’ve “earned” some praise and a gold star from the teacher. When you eat your veggies at dinner, your parents might say you “deserve” a bowl of chocolate ice cream for dessert.
This philosophy of “earning” kindness is rampant online, just like it’s rampant in our world. If a famous person makes a public mistake, for example, they’re frequently crucified with hateful language in news outlets and social media. When you take a deep breath and contemplate for just a second though: does it make any sense whatsoever that we want to discipline someone for cruel behavior by … being cruel?
Apparently, the commenter above believed I “deserved” hurtful treatment … because I have some ads on my blog.
That person got their message of judgment across. And I hope to get a very different message across in return:
Be kind to someone today. Not because they earned it, but because kind is what you are.
Treat someone with kindness. Not because you deem them as “deserving,” but because kindness is a quality in you that you want to focus on and grow.
Practice being kind to the person you label “insignificant” or “a nobody.” Because you want to experience more of your truest self.
Give the waiter a 30% tip. Not because he was the greatest waiter of all time, but just because you’ve committed yourself to being kind.
Smile at a stranger. Not because they smiled first, but because you want to bring a little extra kindness to this planet.
Wave somebody on in traffic. Not because you’re running ahead of schedule, but because your intention is to be a force of kindness in your community.
When we talk about the topic of kindness in my study groups, people often express a fear that too much kindness will make them complacent or a pushover. Especially in American culture, we often associate kindness with weakness.
Here’s the answer to that fear: always remember to include yourself in your kindness practice.
When you honor your own heart – your own spirit – you can’t be taken advantage of or walked all over.
I have the type of timid personality where I like to retreat and hide away from everything. But when I act with kindness toward my own intuition, I find I have a stronger voice and an ability to show up in the world with more strength and courage.
I guess this is the point where I give full disclosure and admit that I’m not perfectly kind, all day every day. Definitely not, ask my family!
Kindness is just another practice, like everything else. Even a baby step is a step in the right direction.
Maybe, one day, I write a social media post that’s judgmental or critical, and then I remember my kindness practice and I decide not to post it. Or, another day, I’m hurrying into a building, and then I think of my kindness practice and hold the door for the person approaching behind me. These seemingly tiny acts have ripple effects, and they do add up to a more loving world.
Even if we’re far from perfect, we can practice kindness for one simple reason: we’ve decided that kindness is the quality within ourselves that we most want to experience.
This is my simple religion. There’s no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple. The philosophy is kindness.
– Dalai Lama