Kindness Matters

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“Kindness” is a word we all too often hear, but can’t define. If my neighbor bakes six-dozen cookies for the church bake sale, is she being kind? Perhaps. How about the man who volunteers to be the head coach for the local youth football team? Is he kind? Again, perhaps.

If we use our imaginations, we can make up stories, both positive and negative, about the neighbor who baked cookies or the coach who wanted to work with young men. The point is, kindness is not necessarily the act. There is more to kindness “than just doing.” It is a mindset applied for the right reasons.


Be Tender

The writer and philosopher Kahlil Gibran once wrote: “Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”

There is a lot to be said in that simple quotation.

To be kind, we must first be tender. Not just to the community we live in or the people we know, but to ourselves. Kindness must emanate from inside us. Kindness must be impenetrable to criticism, scorn, and mockery. We must resolve to be kind.

If the woman who bakes those cookies for the bake sale dislikes herself, she may end up shunning some of the members of the church because they didn’t thank her enough or show her contribution to the proper amount of admiration. I have seen this happen, and I am sure you have as well.

If the football coach has anger issues stemming from childhood, he may very well take it out on his players, opposing players, opposing coaches, or the officials. I have seen this happen, as well. It is inexcusable.

Acts of kindness exist on their own. Sometimes that concept is difficult for those around us to appreciate. They may even dislike us for it. For example, I well remember the story of a well-to-do woman in California, surrounded by wealth and luxury, who was moved to work in the soup kitchen of the inner city. She told no one of her work, none of her well-to-do, well-manicured friends knew, until a local television station interviewed her.

At first, her friends thought it was a silly novelty; they urged her to quit. Then they judged her as eccentric, and finally, they turned their backs on her. She continued because she believed it was the right thing to do. The kindness she exhibited came from within and was impervious to the judgment of others.

Along a similar line, I know of a widower who volunteers to work with severely autistic children five mornings a week. Some of these children are well into their teenage years; some cannot control their bodily functions. His family is clueless as to his passion. They are not unloving people; they want their father to live with them, and be with his healthy “normal” grandchildren. But he cannot leave “his children.” He feels it is the right thing to do. He thinks that no one else on earth wants them. He lives for the tiniest human-to-human breakthrough.


Ignite Hope

Some supposed acts of kindness are acts accepted of desperation. We know that cookie baking might be a kind thing for one person, but for another, it might be more like: “I would rather do anything than baking these people cookies, but if I don’t do this for them, I’ll never hear the end of it.”

The act is not kind at all, but an attempt to get “those people” off our backs. The baker would be better off saying, “No, thank you, I’m tied up,” than to pretend to be kind and later be angry for lack of acknowledgment.

Kindness is a beautiful way to let another struggling soul know that there is still love in this world. How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great. Kindness matters.



For more information about Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author Steve Gilliland and the Gilliland Foundation, please contact steve@stevegilliland.com / 724-540-5019 / www.stevegilliland.com.