On kindness and being human

Kindness...a word we hear often these days. There's random acts of kindness, paying kindness forward, and even the great kindness challenge. We encourage our kids to be kind, we encourage kindness in business, and we encourage kindness in our daily activities.

But what actually is kindness? The dictionary defines it as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. That's certainly admirable and certainly a desirable quality. I think kindness is more than just acting in a certain way or thinking about your actions. Kindness is a way of seeing the world. It's recognizing that you are not the only person in the world. It's acknowledging the humanness in others.

That seems strange, doesn't it? Of course there are other people in the world; there's 7 billion of them, right? Well, yes, that's a factual statement. But when you interact with others, do you really see them as another human? Another person with fears, anxieties, hopes, dreams, and relationships? Do you see them as having feelings and struggles of their own? Think about it...you're in the airport and your flight was cancelled. When you talk with the gate agents, do you consider their humanness? When you find out that someone has used your credit card fraudulently, do you treat the customer service agent with kindness? When you realize that your child is being bullied at school, do you consider why the bully is acting that way, or do you simply respond in anger and frustration? What about when you see someone who is different from you being treated unfairly or with prejudice? Do you step in and support them, or do you stand by because they are not like you.

Kindness is more than just the way we treat the individual people we encounter. It is a way of conducting business. It seems strange to call people 'human resources' as if they are commodities to be consumed by the business. There are countless stories of small business owners who take their challenges to their employees and ask for help in keeping the business going and saving their jobs. It is about people recognizing the humanness of their employees instead of seeing them as commodities. Where kindness lives, you have more than just a job; you have a connection with the people where you work. In a kind business, the customers are welcomed into the family. Their needs and desires matter, and the people in the business are truly interested and curious. In a kind interaction, we feel uplifted, welcomed, and loved. In so many of our business and personal interactions, we feel anger, rejection, annoyance, and pain.

 It's difficult to think through your response to painful or unpleasant situations before you have an emotional reaction. It's our nature to react with anger and to want someone else to make it better. It's our nature to want to place blame for our misfortune outside of ourselves or on a person rather than an uncontrolled circumstance. When we do that, we forget about kindness. We forget that the other people we meet are human, too. We don't consider that they have feelings, that they may be having a very hard day or struggling with feelings of self doubt or unworthiness. We don't see the other people as human beings.

When you look at the world as if you are the only human, you forget these simple things. When you forget others' humanness, you don't act from a place of love. Love is the state of connection between two very human beings. It is the place where we find that acceptance, acknowledgement, and validation that we're all truly seeking. It is in love that we are able to truly become the amazing beings that we're intended to be. Acting without love is rejecting another's worthiness. It takes away all the things that make them human. And that is truly unkind.

Kindness is more than simply being friendly, generous, or considerate. It is seeing the world full of other humans that are worthy of love, acceptance, and acknowledgment. It is being the humans we are and loving the presence and potential we all share. Remember to be kind.

Lisa Akers