“My greatest fear has always been that I would be afraid—afraid physically or mentally or morally—and allow myself to be influenced by fear instead of by my honest convictions.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
In earlier posts, we talked about how both kindness and unkindness are contagious—literally—and how in every encounter, we have a choice of which contagion we want to spread. And we talked about all the benefits of choosing kindness—improved health, professional success, reduced stress, better sleep, more creativity, more satisfying relationships….
It would seem to be a no-brainer: with all this evidence for the rewards of kindness, who but the most depraved or deprived among us would not opt for kindness and civility? Well, it’s not that simple. There are factors that get in the way of our choosing kindness, and others that provoke us to behave unkindly even if we would wish otherwise.
Today, let’s look at the biggest barrier, and we’ll examine some of the others in future posts.
Fear is #1
Among the many factors that prevent us from extending kindness and receiving kindnesses, or that sometimes cause us to behave unkindly, the biggest one is fear. And fear comes in a lot of flavors:
Fear of having our kindness rejected or misunderstood. Have you ever extended a kindness and had it spurned. Perhaps you offered a seat on the bus, or asked someone if you could carry their packages and they responded as if insulted by your insinuation that they needed help. That sort of response makes us wary to try again. We have no control over how another person will respond to our kind gesture. Maybe they aren’t ready to receive, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try. Continue reading