Kindness in the face of change
Nominated by Kate Hinton
Human connection and relationship are intertwined and nonlinear. Life is messy and complicated.
As I have sat down to write these words my country Australia is on fire, my heart is heavy and my mind conflicted. I have felt so much anger and shed many tears, yet I am safe. Kindness hasn’t come easy towards many, particularly those who are leading us with a sheer lack of empathy and those who are completely apathetic to what is going on because they are not directly affected even though we know we all are, and will be. I have been pondering my thoughts on kindness amidst many a season and I’m going to try to capture them here, fully aware that many will be reading this in a tumultuous time, perhaps in a state of despair, or with a heart that is yearning for hope and real change. The digital age of social media has brought about many wonderful things, but it has also created something that interferes with our brains, disrupting how we connect. We are existing in a space that curates our sense of reality and conditions us to compare by viewing our lives side by side and often causing us to fall into the trap of seeing things as black and white or as us and them which just isn’t how the world works. Human connection and relationship are intertwined and nonlinear. Life is messy and complicated. As we struggle to differentiate between genuine and perceived realities, we wander from a place of authenticity, our sense of how we should react to the world feels confused. Through our social channels, we are becoming more and more conditioned to accept the uncertainties and fill in the gaps in the form of assumptions. While our experiences are becoming about constant comparison which subtly leads to judgement. There is an element of guilt for sharing your wins or questioning whether your hardships are worthy enough to share. We have been conditioned to compare against one another before sharing our compassion and connection. I do wonder whether we have landed in a place where there is an inability to share delight in others joys and really be present in times of sorrow and hardship. I keep thinking whether we really need to get to our worst before we are motivated to become our best and it pains me to say but I think we might. But, I am already seeing a shift in the social media culture, curated posts and sponsored ads have been put to the side, or at least people are pausing to think about what they are posting and why, this is a really great thing. More than ever we are calling out for a community and a culture that cultivates empathy and kindness. By accepting our privilege, acknowledging that not everybody knows what we do and getting along with others without judgement, we can get there. Pride needs to be put to the side. We have to stop operating as individuals. We can’t have an ‘us and them’ or a ‘me and you’ mentality if we really want to tackle this beast. We are all in this together whether we like it or not. I truly believe that kindness comes through nourishing empathy, Helen Reiss describes this perfectly: “Nourishing empathy lets us help everyone we interact with whether for a moment or a lifetime, thereby also nourishing ourselves”
No one is going to change if they feel belittled, isolated, misunderstood or judged. Kindness helps replace judgment with understanding.
They say that comparison is the thief of joy, but I actually think it is the thief of empathy, and the scary thing is that often we don’t even realise. When it comes to fighting climate change we are all caught in a system that isn’t set up to help us, and there is often a conflict of interest on the most basic decisions. Emotions are high when the problem feels so great and the impacts are unfolding before our eyes, but we must remember, empathy— what comes easy for one may not come easy for others or might take a considerable sacrifice that is hard and hard things take time. If our current situation within Australia is teaching us anything it is that we are all going to need to feel uncomfortable and inconvenienced, but we need to be patient and we need to be kind to ourselves and to others in the process. I’m not advocating that we make excuses for others actions, but I do advocate that we need to be more concerned with our own actions first. We should remain kind when learning about things we may not know and with a willingness to listen before we respond. This is the heart of empathy. No one is going to change if they feel belittled, isolated, misunderstood or judged. Kindness helps replace judgment with understanding. We have all been on the receiving end of judgement and the hurt is even greater when we feel misunderstood or unheard in the process. It so often inhibits dialogue taking place, and healthy dialogue is so needed and can be healthy even with a disagreement, if we are thoughtful and intentional about it. Kindness is a word printed on t-shirts, on pretty wall hangings, and there have been various books written about it. It has become a bit of an informal mantra over the last couple of years and in many ways rightly so. We know the impact of a simple smile, to pay-it-forward, to be generous in times of need, the list goes on. But beyond all these small things I think that at the heart of kindness there needs to be empathy. Nourishing empathy is looking beyond ourselves and our own lives. It enables us to stop putting our stories side by side, to stop thinking that we are better than others, to stop operating with a need to justify and share everything that we do for it to be valid. Real human connection will come from weaving our stories together, journeying with each other, asking questions rather than attempting to fill in the gaps, speaking into these stories not just about them, and reflecting on what we can give. We never really know the extent of how someone has landed where they are. It is easy to forget our place of privilege and is often hard to put our pride aside. What we are facing as a nation right now is scary, confronting and overwhelming, and without kindness and real empathy, it is going to become near impossible to move forward. Kindness can be the pinnacle to change and the beacon of light to someone in darkness. I will leave you with this quote from Beau Taplin: "Never underestimate the power of a small act of kindness. Sometimes, a selfless gesture or a single moment of reassurance, even something as simple as a smile, can be enough to save a person. After all, even on the darkest nights, all it takes is a little light to illuminate the way forward." Beau Taplin // Little Light
Jess works to continued to foster her love of children’s books (which she think are for everyone). She is fascinated by the sharing of stories and how they grow, teach, challenge and shape us. This love has taken her to many places around the world, experiencing and learning about life outside her own. Despite living in the inner city of Sydney she lead to the rhythm of slow and intentional living and taking time to delight in the simple things. Jess is most content having my big and little love by her side and can often be found in a cafe or refueling by the ocean.
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