Why is it so hard to be nice?
I am not sure that human kindness is an innate feature. After all, way back when, if you were too kind you might get eaten. Being nice and favorable isn’t a survival mechanism. Selfishness is. And no I’m not talking about when you were back in middle or high school, I’m taking about early human evolution. Still, some kind of bonding must have occurred between these early humans, lest we wouldn’t have sociability or the innate need for companionship.
I read an article recently about a mom who is trying to teach her child about kindness and friendship. She tried to explain to her daughter that not being mean, or being indifferent, isn’t the same as being nice. I really started to think about this. Being indifferent to someone isn’t the same as being nice, or kind, to them.
So what is it, then, that makes kindness…kindness?
Kindness takes an extra degree of effort. It takes those extra few seconds to hold open a door, to ask a crying stranger if they are okay, or to organize a donation event for a food bank. So often we hurry through our day and, usually selfishly, just try to get to quittin’ time so that we can retreat back to our caves for food and quiet. I get it, though. The last thing I want to do after caring for my baby all day is to do more. I want to be alone and cherish my solitude. But I try to include small acts of kindness in my day and evening, because it is good for the heart. Do you ever do something for someone else and just feel good about it? That good feeling must be why the cavemen continued to be kind even though it could have meant a detriment to their survival. Maybe we haven’t really changed all that much, after all.
Kindness takes caring. In this crazy day and age that we live in, self-preservation is the name of the game. A lot of people have the mindset of “me, me, me,” and, I hate to say it, that the younger generations are even more so. It seems like they never grow out of that MINE stage—a never ending parents’ nightmare. Are we losing the art of caring for one another? Possibly. The number of individuals who volunteer has been declining for over a decade. Why? Some suggest that the emergence of the social culture online takes place of personal interaction, thus cutting off our exposure to seeing those who may need help most. Whatever the cause, it is a trend that I believe will decrease our empathy for others and foster selfishness and isolation in younger generations.
Kindness takes patience. Living near a big city, I experience my fair share of major traffic. Even on days when there really shouldn’t be traffic, there can be major backups that make a short drive into an unnecessarily long one. Before, I had no qualms about letting some choice words fly, or honking my horn to ensure that the moron going under the speed limit knew of my ire. Lately, when I let the f-bomb fly, I look in my rearview mirror and see my little baby looking back at me. I instantly feed guilty, even though he can’t understand such vocabulary yet. I imagine, though, that he understands tone, and I find myself apologizing for my bad behavior. If I want to set a good example for him, how can I have such a short fuse for something so insignificant as someone who didn’t merge properly? If my baby has taught me one thing, he has taught me to have the patience of a saint. The more patience I have, the calmer I feel, and the less angry outbursts [that raise my blood pressure a few notches] I have.
Kindness doesn’t expect reciprocation. Have you ever held the door open for someone or let someone cut in front of you on the road, and when they didn’t say thank you or give you the “thank you” wave you found yourself saying “You’re welcome!” in the most sarcastic tone you can muster? True kindness doesn’t mean getting something back. It requires giving because giving is good and the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter on what scale we give, we should act because it feels right. Granted, if you are on the receiving end then puh-lease wave a thank you; kindness is expressing gratitude, too, ya know!
Being nice is not indifference. Being nice takes more.
Think about one act of kindness that you can do today. Maybe if we had more people who were willing to take a few minutes to do good, we wouldn’t have as many problems as we do. Maybe you can be that one that helps change things, even for just one person for just a minute. You never know how far your good deed goes.
So yes, I’ll hold the door open for that person who walks by without a second glance, and still smile and say “You’re welcome!”, and mean it.