Making resolutions is a New Year ritual for many. The start of a new year brings possibilities for a fresh start. Many people are cleaning out closets and garages, getting organized, making resolutions about their health, relationships, finances. You might be considering the ways you want to improve your life.
In the spirit of new beginnings and self improvement, I want to suggest we all resolve to be kind this year. Let’s make it the Year of Kindness. Earlier this month, Ellen Degeneres won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Humanitarian for her generosity and charitable work around the world. Guilty pleasure… I love award shows! I was watching when she received this award. In her acceptance speech she said “It’s a little strange to get an award for being nice and generous and kind, which is what we’re all supposed to do for one another.” Well said. Yet it seems, often, we have lost our way from offering basic civility and kindness to one another. Ellen Degeneres has become a spokesperson for kind in the past few years. She created an anti-bullying campaign called “Be Kind”. She has popularized the phrase “be kind to one another.” She is the Queen of Kind. And, in my mind, the King of Kind, who has been a spokesperson for compassion for years, is the Dalai Lama.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
What does it mean to be kind? The dictionary says kind is benevolent, charitable, considerate, mild, or gentle. It might mean being helpful or understanding. It might refer to how you speak to some one; are your words and tone gentle or aggressive? The Golden Rule might inform kind: treat others as you would want others to treat you. What if each of us resolved to be the King or Queen of Kind in 2016? What if you committed to improving our social skill, graciousness, tact, patience, and tolerance for those we love, know, and don’t know.
The best place to start is with yourself. How might you be more kind to yourself in 2016? Do you have a very loud inner critical voice? Could you resolve to silence harsh words you direct to yourself and instead replaced them with gentle words, understanding, and self-compassion? I don’t mean side-step responsibility taking. I just think it’s a whole lot easier to accept you made a mistake if you’re not shaming and beating yourself up! Making yourself feel small, bad, or wrong doesn’t usually create an internal environment that helps you be your best. Perhaps being kind to yourself means taking better care of yourself; perhaps more sleep, more play, healthy meals. Take quiet time to understand your needs and take steps to meet them. Ultimately, I believe that when you treat yourself with more kindness, you will feel better. When you feel better about yourself, you are more able to offer this goodness to others.
How can you be considerate and gentle to others? Kind might be helping a stranger. It might be offering a smile. Perhaps you try to be more patient with your child. You might resolve to be more careful with your tone of voice, less critical, or resist blaming a loved one, or maybe some one who has hurt you. Kindness and civility demonstrate you are socially skilled and gracious. It doesn’t imply you like the person or are pleased with them. It implies that it’s important to you to handle yourself with dignity and that you value treating others with respect and dignity….even when they aren’t behaving well themselves.
The benefits of kindness are many! I feel better when I am kind and polite; I respect myself more. I also feel better when I am treated with kindness. Since we are social animals, our feelings and demeanor can be contagious! If I am in a bad mood and am negative, I am likely to receive more of that negative energy back. If I am polite, kind, and positive, I am more likely to receive more of that in return. Try this as an experiment. See what happens. What would you rather have your contribution be today and each day in 2016?
Kindness. Civility. Manners. Maybe these are very “old school.” I think they are timeless. Resolve to make kindness your priority in 2016.