By Finder blogger: Andrea McKenna
Be Kind. Always. (And it’s good for your brain!)
“Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” – J.M. Barry (author of Peter Pan)
We may think we all know what it means to be kind, but are all doing it? Being kind includes using positive words that make an interpersonal interaction more positive. And that makes people happy. If you use negative words, well that generally makes people unhappy. (And there’s brain chemistry involved!) Further, you don’t know everyone’s inner story or how your words might impact them.
Here in Singapore, there is a Kindness Movement and on the designated Kindness Day in May we saw lovely videos and posts on social media of people going the extra mile to be kind, such as by helping a stranded driver or carrying a mother’s stroller down stairs. However, you can’t control this always and surely we see and hear of the opposite happening.
I was recently made aware of a video circulating on social media of a woman treating a deaf and mute restaurant worker horribly. In considering kindness, was it kind to videotape an upsetting incident and blast it on the Internet to humiliate someone, including the victim? As humans, we have to do better than this.
So, the first problem I see is that someone chose to take a video of this behavior instead of intervening. Then the “bad” lady on the video was vilified in the online comments. Ask yourself, “Is that kind?” Just because she was a jerk on a video does not mean she deserves to be punished by being treated badly in return. Some people say it’s justice. But it is clearly not kindness.
Back to the point: You don’t know what kind on internal battle the “bad” lady was fighting. Maybe she is mentally ill and suffering. Maybe her husband died. Maybe her life has been shattered by some other tragedy. I know it’s hard to accept and an unpopular view, but compassion is seriously lacking in many interpersonal interactions in this world.
The obvious other side of this point is that no one should ever, ever mercilessly berate a service person (or any person for that matter), whether they have a handicap or not. Certainly, it is worse if the victim of verbal abuse has one. People with disabilities, whether visible or invisible, are fighting untold battles and we should consider that always.
[On a side note, do you know Uber drivers can rate you as a customer? Be extra kind!]
But the “bad” lady’s behavior? Yes, disgraceful. When you look down on people and belittle them, you are really expressing part of yourself. You hate what you see because it is also part of you. And you hate yourself. I see this a lot in my work as a yoga teacher, as well as mental health advocacy. People are struggling inside with hating themselves. I encourage people to be kind to themselves, as well as teaching them how to meditate and do a Down Dog. This is an endless battle and we see the results in the lack of kindness to others, as well as to ourselves.
In addition to being a better person on the outside, there is now evidence that using kind words actually helps you be a better person on the inside. It literally helps your brain by firing positive chemicals instead of negative ones. See this story:
So if you can choose your words and it helps you to not only be more positive but improves brain function as well, wouldn’t you choose that every day? You can argue on Facebook, people. But you can’t argue with science.
About Andrea McKenna
Andrea McKenna Brankin is journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.