True kindness is the greatest show of strength. Too often, we are led to believe that strength is best demonstrated by exerting dominance or superiority over others, while kindness is portrayed as the opposite — a sign of weakness. Even the dictionary defines strength as “power” or “force.” You don’t have to look far to find examples of people manifesting strength through crude words or harmful actions — it’s happening everywhere, from professional sports to corporate America, families, to the entertainment industry, and even our children’s playgrounds. In sports, some athletes show strength on the playing field and in the locker room by disrespecting opponents and, at times, teammates. Families are torn apart by family members who try to control their loved ones instead of loving, caring for and understanding the needs of all involved. In the workplace, leaders can be seen talking down to team members, afraid that if they show empathy or humility they will be perceived as a pushover. Similarly, the entertainment industry promotes strength in ways that perpetuate gender stereotypes. Such stereotypes have seeped into our children’s schools and playgrounds, where kids are bullying one another verbally and physically. As a mother of an amazing boy who helped bullied kids, I’ve seen this from kindergarten to high school seniors.
How can we raise the next generation under these false pretenses of strength? What will happen if our children start to view kindness as weakness? How do we, through our words and actions, show that it takes a lot more courage to be kind? I find myself having to take pause each day to focus on these issues, so while I recognize it isn’t always easy, I also believe it’s important we start asking these questions.
To achieve a shift in thinking, we have to challenge deeply rooted misconceptions that are being reinforced throughout business and society. The reality is that corporate America tends to be a reflection of society and society is often imbalanced, which means today’s business leaders have a responsibility to poke holes in cultural norms until equilibrium is reached. Males, in particular, have to be OK disputing what it means to be masculine. In many cultures, including pockets of the United States, masculinity has long been defined as being tough, rough, and macho. What a joke and so sad they are fooling themselves. Pretending to be strong and in charge makes them look weak and confused. Showing warmth, emotion and kindness are consequently discouraged. Of course, not all men model their behavior after this definition. Strong men and women show their strength in the world through relaxed kindness, patience, and clear understanding of the needs and feelings of those they interact with.
We can agree that some situations require more courage than others. For instance, if someone is being bullied and we’re faced with the decision of whether or not to speak up, it may take an added ounce of strength to choose kindness versus turning a blind eye. It will take even more strength to extend kindness to the bully — an action that is equally as meaningful. No matter if we’re in a contentious situation or simply engaging in everyday interaction, we should aspire to have the strength to be kind always. If each of us shared this aspiration, we’d all be better off. That’s because kindness is a net happiness aggregator — one of the few forces in nature that can increase the contentment of both the person doing the kind act and the recipient. That’s the magic of it.
Beginning today, we can start making a change. This is our world, after all, and we can shape it as we’d like. With some focus and the acceptance that lasting transformation doesn’t happen overnight, we can erase predetermined misconceptions — we can show that it’s strong to be kind. It won’t be easy — I know this firsthand. I make mistakes daily, letting generalizations creep into my thoughts and negatively affect the moment. These mistakes have taught me that the first step to successfully choosing kindness is being more mindful about it, letting go of impatience and intolerance along the way. Also, choose kind people to surround yourself with who are mindful of their actions and how they affect others, and have patience and are tolerant of others ways and feelings.
Choosing kindness all the time can be difficult but it gets easier and easier. You’ll have a sense of the sadness and the feelings of desolation the people trying to be controlling and tough possess. It makes those who are kind what to help those who act tough or think they are in control. It is important to remember however that those who believe power comes from being tough and cold will most likely never change or know true love and completeness. We who are kind need to keep safe boundaries and know that acts of being tough come strictly from fear.
Remember we act tough and show people how in control we think we are simply because we are afraid. It’s so easy to get mad at others when we are scared we’re not good enough for them. We act kind when our ego and sense of self are strong, we know no one else’s opinion really matters, and we find strength and connection through love.
May the force of kindness be with you!! 😉