There’s Always Time for Kindness

“Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh, be swift to love, make haste to be kind.” ~Henri Frederic Amiel

DSCN0820We talked earlier about how fear seems to be the biggest and most common barrier to both giving and receiving kindness. But it’s not the only one.

Time is another big factor. We’re all overscheduled and overwhelmed. You wouldn’t think that should make a difference, but it does. In recent years, when I’ve spoken to groups and conferences about kindness, someone often comes up to me afterward and says, “I really would like to be kinder, but I’m just so busy. I don’t have time.”

I get that. Because it can take time to extend kindness.

It takes time to pause and think about what the kind response is, or what words we can offer that might encourage or comfort. Few of us have that silver-tongued facility that immediately clues us to just the right thing to say in every situation. How I envy those who do!

It takes time to step out of our routine and provide assistance, or engage in a genuine conversation. I’ve always tended to be fairly single-minded. If I have someplace to go or something I need to do, that’s where my focus is—making it easy for me to overlook opportunities to extend kindness. I’m working on this–trying to be more fully present and notice what’s happening around me.

It takes time to be patient and allow someone to fumble or stumble as they learn something new, and not just step in and say, “Oh, let me do it. I can do it faster.” I have such gratitude for the people who stood by patiently while I blundered and lurched my way to competence.

It takes time to reach into our pocket and find a dollar or two, and then truly connect with the person we are giving it to. It’s great when we want to give to someone in need, without judging them or assessing their worthiness. Instead of pushing a bill into someone’s hands and rushing off, share a real connection: pause, make eye contact, offer a genuine smile and a few words that convey your recognition that they are valued and precious. The gift of being seen and being respected is as important—and more lasting—as the cash we may be proffering.

Even being kind to ourselves takes time. Some people are good at extending kindness to others but not so good at giving it to themselves. Maybe it feels frivolous to indulge in something just for them, or they don’t feel they deserve it, or there’s an old but familiar voice in their head saying, “don’t be selfish.” I’m pretty certain—after all these years of researching and writing about kindness—that it’s not possible to become a truly kind person if you can’t or won’t give some of that kindness to yourself. Without self-compassion, burnout is inevitable. Martyrs are tiresome.

What would happen if we change our thinking a bit, if we stop viewing kindness as an add-on, something we do when it’s convenient or we have time? Instead, we start perceiving our lives through the lens of kindness, accepting it as our approach to life. If kindness is the language we speak, the motive for our actions, then concerns about time pretty much dissolve. Kindness isn’t an inconvenience. It’s our vocation, or as the Dalai Lama asserts, it’s our religion.

Everything changes when we view kindness simply as how we live our lives, accepting also that there will be times when we fall short, because, of course, we’re human. We do our best. And then we try to do a little bit better.

If your heart or your values nudge you toward an action, but your wristwatch or your brain say otherwise, stop and examine which voice is serving your best self. A day from now, or an hour from now, which choice will you be glad you made?

“You don’t wait to be kind. The world needs your kindness right now, all the time. There will be a place for your kindness: Provide it. … Craft yourself into a kind and giving and curious person. That is something the world needs, and there will be no unemployment and a lifetime of riches.” ~Julie Harris

12 thoughts on “There’s Always Time for Kindness

  1. That’s great advice. When I’m facing a choice and honestly don’t know what is the best way forward, I tend to ask myself: “when you look back on this day, which choice will you be happy about?” That helps me put things into perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

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