“Give, give, give—what is the point of having experience, knowledge or talent if I don’t give it away? Of having stories if I don’t tell them to others? Of having wealth if I don’t share it? I don’t intend to be cremated with any of it! It is in giving that I connect with others, with the world and with the divine.” ~Isabel Allende
We all know people who withhold their gifts. For whatever reason, they choose not to share a favorite recipe, contribute their expertise, bestow a compliment … or extend a kindness. Too often, they die with the gift they were meant to offer locked away in a drawer or clutched tightly in their fist.
Such miserliness may come from a sense that our talents will not be fully appreciated or compensated. So we hold back, waiting for just the right time—which never comes. Or maybe our offering isn’t perfect yet—thus, we hesitate and wait, afraid to admit our imperfection, or see the trap that’s always shrouded within the illusion of perfection. Still others of us were raised to have a sense of scarcity: if I give what I have, there will be less for me. I must hoard my treasures, otherwise I will somehow be diminished.
It took me a while to learn that this isn’t how life works. Continue reading →
“Kindness begins with the understanding that we all struggle.” ~Charles Glassman
When I talk to groups about kindness, I am always asked if there is a difference between being kind and being nice. For some, the difference may be merely semantic, but I think there’s more to it. While the outward behavior may appear the same, if we dig down, we see that there are significant differences in attitude, intention, and even energy between nice and kind.
Nice is doing the polite thing, doing what’s expected of me. I can be nice without expending too much effort, without making a connection. I can even be nice and still merely tolerate someone with my teeth gritted in a false smile, while making judgments about them and inwardly seething with impatience.
Kindness asks more of me. It asks me to withhold judgment, to genuinely care about the other person and whether they’re getting what they need from our interaction. Kindness forges connections. It also makes me vulnerable, because I don’t know how my kind action will be received—it may be rejected or misunderstood. With kindness, I risk jumping into unknown waters; with niceness, I stay safely on shore. Continue reading →
“Don’t die with your best song still unsung.” ~Anonymous
[While kindness has been and will remain one of the most important lessons of my life—and one I continue to learn daily—lately, I’ve been thinking about other lessons life has taught me. And I’ve become increasingly aware of the lessons that no longer serve and need to be “unlearned.” Like many writers who say they write to find out what they think, writing is how I make sense of my world. Periodically, I plan to explore some of my life lessons here. I invite you to share some of your own.]
I’m finally learning to use and enjoy the things I love—without worrying about whether I might break them, wear them out, or use them up. Growing up, I somehow ingested a notion that special things were to be saved for special occasions:
“We only use those dishes when we have company.”
“Those are your good shoes. You can’t wear them for everyday.”
For years—even long after I was out on my own—I didn’t wear the favorite sweater to go grocery shopping or just around the house. I didn’t serve dinner for only the two of us on the pretty china with the blue flowers, or pour water, lemonade, or wine into the delicate crystal glasses. I refrained from writing in the exquisite hand-sewn journal a dear friend gave me because my scribblings were just too mundane for such a gorgeous book.
But somewhere along the way—finally—it occurred to me that the sweater wasn’t made to spend its life in a drawer, the china and crystal would give us pleasure and maybe even psychologically elevate the quality of my mediocre cooking. And if I didn’t think my writing or my thoughts were worthy of a lovely journal (and a good pen to write with), then what kind of timid, phony writer am I? If I fill it up with my thoughts—however jumbled or humdrum—I can get another. I’m worth it. Continue reading →
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” (Leo Buscaglia)
At least once a week, I come across an article, research summary, or opinion piece lauding the benefits of kindness in the workplace. I’ve shared many of these demonstrated benefits through this blog over its six-plus years of kindness-diving (as opposed to dumpster-diving). And I’ve been encouraged to see that a lot of businesses are taking to heart the advice from experts that kindness is one of the best strategies a business can employ for long-term success.
As many businesses are now planning how best to transition from a remote workforce to fully-staffed offices, or a hybrid (“amphibious”) model, it’s a good time to explore where kindness fits in and how to employ it in our workplaces . . . and in our lives.
In early May, Harvard Business Review published an excellent article summarizing a workplace study of the benefits of kindness. Much of it reiterated conclusions that have been put forward by others, showing that kindness: Continue reading →
“We scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested…. Here is the exercise: find one wholly unexpected kind thing to do tomorrow and just do it. Notice what happens to your mood.” (Martin Seligman)
The holiday season can be stressful. It’s a time when another year is hurtling toward its close—often reminding us of unmet goals and the swift passage of time. It’s also a time when expectations and obligations collide with excess, and unless we’ve learned to set reasonable boundaries, stress is often the result.
Multiple recent studies show that one great way to counter stress is to spread some kindness. Research by Elizabeth Raposa, Holly Laws, and Emily Ansell, from the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University’s School of Medicine, showed that when people extend small acts of kindness, such as holding a door, offering assistance, or waving a car into a line of traffic, they experience less stress than on days when they don’t perform these small kindnesses.
The aim isn’t to be the kindest person in the room, it’s to be the kindest version of yourself. Continue reading →