Trying to Be Kind, One Step At a Time
When we’re little, everyone tells us to be kind to each other, the same way we tell our pets to be good. And, when we’re little, we are kind.
At least for the most part. Because, as children, we are inherently kind; we don’t, however, act this way because we’re told. We learn by example, not command, so why would we be kind when there are so many unkind adults? Maybe it’s not your parents, and maybe its not your siblings, but somewhere, you learn that being kind is stupid, just another stupid school thing, just as fake as all those bright, primary colors and foam edges from your kindergarten classroom. And by the time we’re old enough not to be inherently kind, we reject the command and follow the example, and we become less kind.
This isn’t a universal truth. I don’t really know any universal truths, because I’m seventeen and I don’t have authority over anything. But I was asked to write about something important to me, and kindness is the most important thing to me, and, from what I’ve seen, there’s an age where most of us go from kind to less kind. And saying mean things goes from mean to funny. And getting hurt goes from normal to you’re being sensitive.
I’m a sarcastic person, so it’s not like I think we should be walking on eggshells around each other, but there’s a difference between joking with your friends and talking badly about someone you barely know. I used to make fun of people I barely knew behind their backs, because it was cool, but it left me feeling bad. And I didn’t know where that bad feeling came from for a long time. I thought there was something wrong with me, which made me angry and hurt. It made me turn inwards with my aggression, and begin to hate myself, just like I’d been hating on other people. Which, now, seems
really, really avoidable, but I didn’t understand it at the time. When I finally decided to put kindness above all else, I was at a really low point. All that anger had turned me away from people. I wanted to like myself, which meant I tried to become less volatile, more attractive, if only in that gloomy sort of way. But, if you isolate yourself, you don’t end up mysterious, you end up alone. And I was really, really lonely, because people need people.
It had never really occurred to me that I should try to make other people happy. I was unhappy, so the idea didn’t cross my mind. But then, one day, I was laughing with my best friend, and I was thinking about how widely she made me smile, and I realized that I could give that feeling to people. And that it was kind of my responsibility to try.
I know not everyone agrees with me, and that’s fine, but I think being kind is the most important thing. Other people value truthfulness or self-preservation above kindness, and I’m not saying we should throw these things away, but I just don’t see how being kind while prioritizing them, too, is so hard. And it’s not just the right thing to do for our community, it’s the right thing to do for ourselves. Or, at least, it was for me. Because, when I was putting so much emphasis on the negativity in my life, I felt really bad. But, when I started focusing on spreading love, loving myself became so much easier.
I’m really lucky, now, to have friends who value kindness and compassion and genuinely care about each other. I know, in more negative environments, I really struggle to maintain the level of kindness that I feel my best at, and that I think everyone around me deserves, and I’m so grateful to be with people who rarely create a negative environment. But, even in a negative space, we all have to try to be kind. It’s really hard, sometimes, but we owe it to ourselves and to each other, because we’re all fighting battles that nobody else knows about, and hurting each other won’t help us at all.
When I was asked to write about something important to me, kindness is what came to my mind. I rejected it, the first time, because the subject seemed too dumb and too preachy and too insubstantial, and because we’re not in kindergarten anymore. But then I started thinking about the weight that kindness really carries. And if this just makes one person feel like they don’t have to hurt other people to be funny, or that they can and should be a little more tolerant, or loving, or kind, then there’s no reason not to write it. So just, please, try to be kind. And see what it creates.