The Absence of Unkindness Does Not Signify the Presence of Kindness

“I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.” (Neil Gaiman—the perfect quote to start this new year)

“He who sees a need and waits to be asked for help is as unkind as if he had refused it.”  (Dante Alighieri)

Attribution: By Lndj92 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Grand Canyon photo by Lndj92 by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I am rarely unkind (feel free to disabuse me of this notion if you have observed otherwise…put your hand down, Bill).

I can think of only a few times in recent years when I have behaved unkindly, and thinking of them makes me cringe.  I’m certainly not proud of those instances and I have learned that I never feel good about myself afterward.  I hope they are rare and becoming rarer.  But the fact that I am generally not unkind does not make me kind, just as the fact that I own a set of golf clubs does not make me a golfer.

I don’t know many—if any—people whom I would describe as unkind, and I am blessed to know several who are extraordinarily kind.  If, as certain politicos assert, “corporations are people, too,” then there are kind and unkind companies.  We recognize them by the respect and trust, or lack thereof, with which they treat us.  We can all probably name several kind companies, and a few we would classify as unkind (talkin’ about you here, Comcast).  Then, there’s the vast majority of people and companies who are neither kind nor unkind, but who reside in that ravine between the two.

The Kindness Chasm

Even if I do not behave unkindly, and even if I am able someday to dispel unkind thoughts, that will not make me kind.  Kindness is a lot more than not being unkind.  There’s an immense chasm between kind and unkind, and it’s filled with all the things that get in the way of our kindness:

  • Fear
  • Laziness
  • Impatience
  • Indifference
  • Inertia
  • Obliviousness
  • Habit

What am I leaving out?

At one time or another, each of these may be a barrier to both being kind and accepting kindness from others.

If I am to spend less time in the chasm and more on the kindness side of the canyon, I’ll need to climb over and out of those limiting responses.  That takes awareness and action … and a willingness to be vulnerable.  That’s the challenge for the coming weeks.