My struggle with kindness

Do you practice kindness?  I know it sounds pretty odd but this whole kindness business is getting under my skin.  The reason is really simple. I’ve witnessed time and again an unintended consequence of kindness that I find damaging, particularly to women. Let me explain. Have you ever caught yourself resorting to kindness when you would rather rage at something or someone?  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing for reckless confrontation. But this conflict – the intersection of kindness and authenticity – has me wondering.  Is kindness becoming a new modern day requirement, another expectation that is layered upon us like a cloak gently silencing our voices?

Me & Kindness

I am no stranger to kindness. It is part of who I am. At my wedding, more than twenty years ago, our best man used the word kind to describe me during his toast. I remember being surprised both by his word choice and by its accuracy.

Truth be told, I don’t view kindness as a practice. Bringing my awareness to when and how I can extend kindness to another is not work for me. I do it instinctively. Continuously. Joyfully.

The idea of practicing kindness conflicts with a core belief I hold about transition. I’ve learned in my research and work that we are at ‘our best’ when two things occur:

a) when we recognize what holds value and meaning to us; and

b) when we use that knowledge as a foundation for all of our choices.

What if kindness does not hold value or meaning to us? What then?

 

Value and Meaning Trump Everything –  Even Kindness

If we live by what holds value and meaning to us, everything changes. The most incredible change I’ve witnessed time and again has to do with our energy.

If we anchor our choices on what holds value and meaning to us, we are replenished by our choices instead of being depleted by them.

Let me say that again. If we anchor our choices on what holds value and meaning to us, we are replenished by our choices instead of being depleted by them.

We meet the world differently.

We bring our light.

We shine without even trying.

Who wouldn’t want to access new energy? As a mom of two teenagers, an entrepreneur and an active community advocate – who also takes care of an eighty-five year old parent –  energy is my most precious resource. I crave it. I seek it out in every nook and cranny.

Kindness as a Bridge

What happens if I don’t know what holds value and meaning to me?  What then? Here is where kindness can really go to work. Kindness can serve as a bridge to helping us explore what holds value and meaning for ourselves.

Two nights ago I was reminded of kindness’s potential bridging capacity. A dozen people got together to remember a friend who died a year ago after losing her battle with a brain tumor. We all gathered – to reconnect with her beautiful spirit and to stand with her family on the one year anniversary of her passing. Together we planted marigolds in her garden.

The collective effort of adding beauty to a garden that she had once tended reminded me that kindness isn’t about our comment on a friend’s Facebook post or if we clap the loudest at our boss’s presentation. It is about our willingness to share who we are with the planet.

In walking away from the garden, I realized for the first time that my friend’s light helped me continue to see myself in ways that I had not really understood until she and I navigated her illness together.

At the outset of my transition, I couldn’t name those things that held value and meaning to me.  I’d learned to reflexively silence those thoughts over decades of chasing all manner of goals. The irony is that I reached many of the goals – like getting an MBA from Harvard or being the CEO of a venture capital backed tech company – but I was no closer to understanding my own value and meaning.

Once I realized this gap, it was difficult to undo. It took patience and courage and forgiveness and grace. Somewhere along the way I had to learn how to be kinder to myself.  I thank my magnolia friend for walking next to me for parts of that journey.

This spring, I hope you are surrounded by beautiful blossoms and that you recognize that there are few more elegant than the one you embody yourself.

May you summon the courage to seek out bridges that can connect you to the fullest expression of who you are and that you greet whatever it is you uncover along the way with new found energy and kindness.

Linda Rossetti  (linda@WomenAndTransition.com)

 

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2 responses to “My struggle with kindness

  1. Lots of good thoughts and ideas here, Linda. Thank you for sharing your truths.

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