I wrote last week about how important I think kindness is. And about how its truest form is a positve action rather than the mere absence of negative actions. That, and a few other things I’ve seen lately has lead me to get thinking a little bit about why this thing called kindness that we almost all agree is important is so hard to do.
Part of why kindness is hard is just the intractable and inevitable gap between what we wish we would do and the reality of what we do. No matter how much we think in idle time “I should do it like this” we’re always coming face to face with the fact that the way we typically do things is different than our ideals.
But I think there are more subtle and specific qualities of kindness that contribute to the problem. I intend to spend some time thinking and writing about them in the coming weeks.
To get the series started, here are some of the reasons that I’ve come up with:
- Kindness has minimal pay-off in the very short term. Most repayment of kindness comes later, if it comes at all. That makes it really hard to consider it seriously when you’re going through day-to-day life.
- Kindness requires us to leave the bubble of our own reality and, if only for a few seconds, consider the experience another person is having of the world. We much puncture our bubble to engage with someone kindly, and that’s hard.
- Defensive and habitual reactions are unlikely to be kind. This means that kindness requires a tremendous attunement to what’s happening in the present circumstance. We rarely possess the awareness we need to be as kind as we aspire to be.
- Kindness requires some willingness, however modest, to be vulnerable. Puncturing your bubble not only requires that you reach outside yourself, but that you let someone in even if only a tiny bit. And that can be a scary proposition.
I’ll write about each of those bullet points, one per week. If I find more they’re going on the list. I feel pretty confident I’ll learn something from the exercise, and I hope you’ll accompany me.