I dare you to be kinder than you’ve ever been

Be Kind I have a reputation, somewhat deserved, for being a kind person. The truth is that, while I do try to be kind, I have never really lived up to my own expectations of how kind I want to be.

When I was a kid, there were times I felt like my kindness was a weakness. I got picked on by other kids, and often enough that I felt isolated. I got picked on because I was deaf and also because I was a nice enough guy that I didn’t fight back. Perhaps that’s just too nice.

Yet I am human, and imperfect. I have a temper, but I am pretty skilled at keeping myself from a temper outburst. I was better before I became a parent.

My younger son often likes to say, “Tell the truth.” He says this with the word truth a little drawn out: Troo-ooth. At least, that’s how it appears to me when he says it. I can’t help but be charmed.

I promised myself that when I write on this blog, I’d do my best to be authentic. To tell the truth. To avoid putting on some false idea of who I am as a person. So that’s why, when I write about kindness today, I want to be honest. I think honesty helps us grow.

I am not kind to myself.

I have spent more than half of my lifetime not being kind to myself. I think most people can relate, but not everyone wants to admit it.

I judge myself daily, pretty much from the time I wake up until when I go to bed. I have that constant nagging voice in my head, reminding me of my failures. Reminding me that I am not who I want to be. It’s no mystery, really, and not a secret. I just want to be better. I want to be a better writer, one who feels energized to write daily. I want to be a better father, one who doesn’t lose his temper after so much whining. I want to be a disciplined person who eats well, exercises regularly, meditates daily, and so on and so on.

None of these desires are inherently a bad thing. The problem is I’m not kind to myself about these things. If I was talking to someone who said any of this, I’d be kind to that person. I’d be showing support. I’d be giving words of encouragement. I would not be making that person feel worse. I would not be emphasizing that person’s failings, but instead would highlight the successful things about a person.

Sometimes success is as simple as being kind to a person. Sometimes success is being kind to the Earth, picking up litter. Or success is being kind to a rock, picking it up and caressing it before you skim it across a pond, because all a rock would want to do is be appreciated, if a rock had feelings.

The jury’s still out on that one.

When I was sitting in my Unitarian Universalist Fellowship service last night, we were all sitting in a circle of kindness. You could just sense how much we cared about the people we were with. There were easy smiles and easier laughs shared.

I know what my personal answer is to the dilemma of not being kind enough to myself, but I still find it difficult to implement. I must practice. I must, every single day, put to practice the act of being kind to myself. I must put to practice the act of being kind for kindness’ sake. For my own sake.

Everything and everyone is precious. Everything and everyone is deserving. Humanity can be both beautiful and ugly, with acts of kindness and acts of hatred. Yet everything, and I mean everything, is deserving of kindness. Everything and everyone is deserving of our compassion, no matter how difficult it would be to offer it.

I’ll end this post with a link. This is a clip to a movie, a documentary called Human. It’s actually the first story, and it’s powerful. It’s an example of how kindness can touch the hearts of those we might have thought would not welcome such kindness.

Check it out HERE.

So, I dare you. I dare you to find ways to be kind that you’ve never done before. To Yourself. To Others. To Animals. To Plants. To Earth. To Everything.

By J. Parrish Lewis

J. Parrish Lewis was born and raised in Maryland. In his youth there, he and his brother had many adventures in the dogwood forests near his home. His nostalgia for these adventures has strongly influenced his characters, their relationships, and their perspective on the world they inhabit. He moved to California’s coast to earn his degree in communications and now lives with his family in the San Joaquin Valley. Lewis is profoundly deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate. He enjoys hazelnut coffee, captioned movies, and walking his dog.

4 replies on “I dare you to be kinder than you’ve ever been”

Self-judgement comes with expectations, often unrealistic. What does it even mean to be a “better writer”? To what standard? Where does it stop? What makes someone a bad writer? A good writer? Why should a bad writer be punished for writing badly? And, really, why should a good writer be praised?

These adjectives only have value if we assign some kind of marker for reference. Who determines that marker? And if you say that you do, are you sure? Or have you been trained to believe that this other thing, the thing you supposedly are not, is the thing to be?

Well, you will never be that thing, because that thing doesn’t even exist! It’s all just made up by some imaginary being! (And that imaginary being might even be you!)

To be truly kind to yourself, recognize each of these moments is the truth, and truth holds no judgement. Truth just is.

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