As I continue to work on things away from this blog (which is a collection of Free-Time/Casual Online Writing, Remarks, And Notes By ME Whelan) and continue to figure out what goes and what stays of my existing online-writing, the de-emphasizing of one or another continues as well....

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Kindness and Bullying

As I was checking out my daughter's Facebook page I saw a post and a video about kindness.  I was going to make a comment there, but it turns out I have more to say about kindness than, really, would have seemed appropriate on someone else's Facebook page.  Maybe because I don't do much on Facebook (other than to check out a few other people's pages), I don't know how Facebook is really supposed to work...

In any case, here's some thoughts on the subject of kindness:

Some people treat kindness as something they choose to exercise (or not be), "depending"... (on their mood, on whether they deem someone/something worth being treated with kindness, on how much time they have, and on any number of other things). That may be better than no kindness at all, I suppose; but even better is when kind isn't how you act, but how you are by nature (no "depending" involved and never a question of choosing or not-choosing to be kind) - whether towards someone/something and whether in their presence or not.   The reward (when you ARE kind and aren't just "acting kind this time" is discovering that even with whatever flaws you have, you like the person you are - and nobody can take that away from you :)
One of the reasons I didn't want to post these thoughts on my daughter's Facebook page is that, because the comment started to run so long I didn't want it to come across as a lecture from Mom.  It wasn't that I didn't think my daughter would understand that it wasn't a "lecture".  More, I didn't want to risk appearing to be lecturing any of her Facebook friends who are closer to her age.  (When y ou have grown sons or daughters you can be particularly sensitive to a) not wanting to lecture them "at that age", and b) not even wanting to APPEAR to be.   :?

Back to the subject at hand.  The thing about being a kind person is that it is a gift we get from our parents (if we're lucky); and it's a gift we get to keep forever (that as long as "the world" doesn't manage to convince us that being kind has to equal being weak and/or stupid).  The world is certainly full of people who would have us believe that being kind is for four-year-olds who haven't learned to outgrow such an "immature" thing.

The irony of it, however, is that another gift we get from parents is inner strength and sureness.  So, when "the world" (or someone in it) tries to "smarten us up" by convincing us that being kind is also being weak or kind of stupid,  it is that inner strength and sureness make us resist the misguided thinking of others and know, in our hearts, that kindness does, indeed, go hand-in-hand with strength.

It's unfortunate that in a world in which so many people truly believe that strength cannot go with kindness, those same people can be more prone to feel a little freer to attack the person they perceive as strong and having "backbone".  ("After all, someone who acts strong can't possibly have a very soft heart." or else, "After all, this person is obviously a kind person.  If s/he is showing such strength and backbone s/he has no right to be acting that way.")

I've asked myself if it's worse for women, and maybe it often is.  Still, kind men must deal with the same kind of thinking.  Maybe it's worse for children.  Maybe, on the other hand, it's worse for frail-looking elderly people who have been long known as kind but who find themselves in circumstances that require they demonstrate their strength and backbone.

It's not that there aren't plenty of people who understand that kindness doesn't equal weakness or stupidity (or immaturity).  Some of the most mature and kind and strong people I have known have been children who choose to try to understand someone else rather than judge them.  So, yes, there are plenty of people who know that kindness is not weakness.  There are still far too many, however, who just didn't have the inner strength, backbone, and understanding of human nature to have managed to stand up to the world's challenges to, and attitudes about, kindness - only to find themselves liking themselves a little (or a lot) less at their core.

The thing about liking who we are at the core (whether or not we like one or another thing about what's on the outside or what we're surrounded by or anything else external) is when we like who/what we are at the core we also tend to like pretty much everyone else as a starting point.  (I don't mean blindly believing that everyone in the subway station is a fine, upstanding, citizen.  I mean "in general" and "within good sense and reason".)

I could go on and on about all the ways in which people either don't understand truly being a kind person at all, or else the ways in which so many people assume that kindness is a sign of weakness and/or stupidity.  My main point here (particularly after recently running into a discussion about kids being bullied in school) is that I don't really think it's enough to try to teach children to "act kind".  Aiming to a) show them kindness, and b) help them truly understand what kindness IS and what it  ISN'T may be the only real way to address bullying.

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