I read a post the other day from Brian Johnson called Random Acts Of Kindness // sounds like a cop-out and pretty much lifted my title here right off his blog. (For the purposes of continuing his discussion, I feel it necessary to first make the disclaimer that the title are his words, not mine, thanks bro.) I figured a comment on his blog post would take up to much space and just decided to write it out here. I love listening to or reading articles that are thought provoking and inspirational, but in my mind I usually come back to, so that’s great, but how do you do that. Many of us have listened to great sermons on living scripture and walked away from the experience thinking, ok great, now what. So here is a beginning to my thought process, in 5 steps of course.
1. The Whole Idea is More Difficult
This is not to say that Brian’s post was incomplete, I don’t think that was really the purpose, but it did make me think, yeah, now what, or even, why should we think making this part of our lifestyle in the first place?
Random acts of kindness make it seem like what your life is about has nothing to do about kindness and only randomly will you offer an act of kindness to another individual. You recognize that it is a good thing, but its not really what you do€¦its just a random act… the whole idea [thought-out, and well-planned acts of kindness] is much more difficult.
Much more difficult indeed. Random acts of kindness are all the rage possibly because they are easier to successfully achieve, sometimes (maybe most of the time) require small amounts of time and money, and once completed, leaves no further obligation of any kind. So how do you do thought-out and well planned acts of kindness, and really, and as I said above, why are you doing this in the first place?
I mean really, we have a lot going on each day and just as the saying goes, nice guys finish last, not a business principle being taught in many MBA programs right now. The word kindness does appears 59 times in the [NIV] Bible, my favorite being the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
2. Practicing Kindness is a Lifestyle
So there, apparently we are supposed to practice kindness. So what does it take to do this? I would say, time. The most precious resource we have is really what it takes.
- Who is the person (or organization)
- What is your relationship
- and most of all what are the needs, wants, or troubles this person is dealing with in life
Nothing to me says I don’t know a thing about you or your organization (or case to) more than giving them something they don’t need or want. Why bother giving a millionaire a $25 gift certificate to a local restaurant… if you know one, perhaps find out what is important to this person and volunteer to help in an area important to them.
Point is basically you need to get to know someone before you try to understand what their current needs are in this life, and perhaps you might need to spend some time getting to know a person before you can understand what kindness means to them. I would argue that it means different things to different people.
3. Get To Know Someone by Listening
If you want to get to know someone there is a surfire way to do that, which I don’t do very well. Listen. Listen without interruption, without thinking about what you are going to say next, without looking at your cell phone, watch, or being distracted by everything else going on in our world today. Pretty tall order, and very rare when you are talking to another person.
This is something I try to work on all the time but it can be very frustrating on the other end (the one doing the talking) to have someone do everything but pay attention to what you are saying. Even if you are listening but the other person can’t determine if you are or not, you aren’t. If makes the other person feel like why should I bother opening my mouth and saying anything.
4. Execute, Live it Out in Your Life
If you are going to follow the Fruit of the Spirit, ultimately it comes down to actually doing something, right? So if you have taken the time to do everything to this point, why not actually put it into practice in your life. This is not something to do to check it off your list. We are talking about a lifestyle of being kind to others. (If you think this is complicated, see step 5.)
One other note on execution. Kindness is not a reciprocal thing, it is something you do because you want to and are lead to do, not because someone is going to do something or give you something in return. The reciprocal part of being kind has already been sacrificially paid and that totally defeats the purpose.
5. Do Not Make it Complicated
This elongated comment on Brian’s post is basically a long random thought (random thoughts are ok, just not acts, ha). This does not have to be complicated at all. In some cases, a smile works or where appropriate, a hug, can go a long way. I wouldn’t particularly advocate standing in a circle and singing kumbaya since that is what people already think we do anyway, but it doesn’t have to be some long drawn out thing.
I realize for some, this is much harder than others. Being kind for some is about like pulling teeth and for others it comes naturally, but it can be simple, thought out, and well planned, not random.