Kindness isn’t an inherent trait. It’s not something you’re born with, a characteristic available only to those who have selflessness as part of their genetic makeup. Kindness is a skill. A muscle that can be strengthened and fine tuned through the choices that you make.
Much like how we build our actual muscles by going to the gym, lifting weights and increasing our protein intake, becoming a kind person and making kind decisions requires frequent if not daily practice. But the most important shared trait between strengthening a muscle and becoming a kind person is stepping outside of your comfort zone and being brave.
Evidently, there’s a kindness spectrum that requires different levels of bravery and integrity.
While doing kind things like holding the door for someone or paying someone a compliment might not seem like the most arduous of actions to take, in the moments where we witness injustices happening around us for example, we are presented with a fork in the road. One path being the kind option, the other being the easy option. That’s when bravery is needed to step outside of your comfort zone, go against the grain, and take action in the name of what is right.
Even though it might feel easy to stay in your lane and turn your head the other way to unkindness in the world, often the kindest thing to do is also the hardest thing to do: to stick your head above the parapet, speak up or reach out. And all of this is done regardless of what the consequences on yourself might be.
If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s the heightened need for kindness and empathy in the world. From Prime Ministers and Presidents to Line Managers and CEOs, arguably some of the best examples of leadership throughout the pandemic were defined by human understanding and flexibility.
The likes of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reassuring the children of her country that both the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were essential workers sent a message to the world about why we need to connect with and understand each other. While other world leaders were addressing their citizens with stony and unforgiving faces, people like Jacinda went against what she saw happening around her, and showed us all that human understanding is just essential to the survival, development, and ultimately the happiness of our societies.
We need to do away with the perception that kindness is a weakness to be taken advantage of. Waking up each day and repeatedly deciding to be a kind person, to make decisions that benefit others, and to stand up for what is right takes a huge amount of bravery.
It’s time we started rewarding kindness for what it truly is: bravery.