Friday, January 29, 2010

It Costs Nothing To Be Kind

My mother often said this saying when I was growing up and it had an impact on me: "It costs nothing to be kind." Since my becoming widowed, I've often had opportunities to reflect on these words of wisdom. Before widowhood, unkind comments bounced off me more readily. Probably because I had my husband waiting at home to support me and take some sting out of the biting words. I've noticed that since living on my own, I am far more sensitive to the unkindness I've encountered. I think it is because I've become more sensitive overall having dealt with death and loss. But also that there is no longer a buffer at home to protect and help restore me.

What is it with people? Are we really that emotionally immature or thoughtless to want everything to always go our way? Are we so conceited and self-centered to feel entitled to always be right? To have to justify ourselves to prove a point? What harm is there in acknowledging another person's viewpoint? I just don't get it sometimes.

I've been trained as a counselor. To patiently listen to another person's feelings and thoughts. To put myself into the shoes of others. This skill should be taught to everyone, not just those in the social services field. No one seems to consider other people's feelings while barreling in and telling others what they should do, think and feel. Why is it so easy to give advice but not be able to accept criticism? Why can't people say they're sorry more readily? Why is it so important to have the upper hand and come out on top?

This is what I have come to strongly believe - that most of us just want to be heard and validated for our feelings. That's all. We're not asking to be right or for others to agree. Nothing big and nothing fancy. Just a few minutes of heartfelt listening and then some verbal feedback. Here is a little hint - people don't even have to come up with certain words or phrases. All it takes is repeating back the words you have heard. "I hear you saying that you feel this way about this and that..." How much simpler can it be? Why are the easiest and cheapest things in life sometimes the most difficult to attain?

My Mom was right. It costs nothing to be kind. I just don't understand why people are so stingy with their kindness, compassion and sympathy. What do they feel they will lose or give up by spreading a little kindness throughout their day, especially to those they know can use some?

Today I am grateful for:

1. Ice cube trays (talk about taking a product for granted).
2. Mundane office supplies like paperclips, rubber bands and hole punchers that we conveniently use without much thought.
3. The huge variety of music that is available to us and the convenience of CDs vs. the past modes of records, cassettes, etc.
4. Microwaves.
5. Paper towels, paper plates and napkins.


  1. I think that by having a blog, people think we are asking for advice when we write about our lives. So far I have had only one negative comment, but then, my life is fairly mundane and simple (now). If I had been writing a blog a few years ago, I am sure I would have been deluged with all sorts of advice and what to do to get through my then, horrible situation. Oh well--take each comment with a grain of salt. We have not walked in your shoes and therefore have no idea what you are really going through. I just wish you didn't have to go through it and life would hurry up and give you some peace and calm.

  2. i'm carbon dating myself here but they did used to teach how to patiently listen to another person's feelings and thoughts at home, school, and church so if you ever went home, went to school, or attended church you ultimately heard it. they called it the Golden Rule. "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." i have no idea what they call it now but it's been a long, long time since i've even heard it mentioned.

  3. Some people have never learned the difference between active listening and dispensing advice. I have learned that most of the time people just want to be heard, they really don't expect you to fix anything. Once we realize this, the exchange between each other should come easily.

    Unfortunately for my kids, I don't always adhere to my own understanding. That being said, it is a challenge to recognize what others are truly asking for.

    Because I work as a child protective social worker, my job is advising people. But even in that role, my best work is done by just listening, and affirming the goodness in people. We all just want validation.

    Also, I wish I could say I was too young to have heard of the "Golden Rule," but unfortunately I'm not!

  4. Jude - I guess by having a blog we should expect some criticism or disagreement with our views and not be surprised when it comes. After all, we are going public with our lives. I'm hoping for the peace and calm soon too!

    wNs - We need to reactivate the Golden Rule teachings stat! Last year I wore a charm with the imprint, "Be Kind." What happened to that "Practice Acts of Random Kindness" movement?

    Dan - I agree with you that most of us just want to be heard. I've gotten to the point where I try and tell people exactly what I want and need. Sometimes it makes a difference. I also hope it helps inform people about communication and listening techniques.