With the avalanche of unkind words and deeds engulfing our lives today, it's time to buck the trend and resist. The goal is to move from judgment and feelings of separation to acceptance and connection. Acts of kindness are what will get us there.
Kindness can manifest in many ways, such as expressing compassion, helpfulness, empathy, forgiveness, and caring. These gestures ignite and kindle feelings of love. Love is not a business transaction. For maximum effect, kindness must be offered without expecting something in return, except for you to experience a positive human connection. Then you will be doing your part in not adding to the negative vibe that's going around.
Kindness needs to be directed towards other people and things as well as yourself. There are four kindnesses. As a daily practice, write, think, or speak any one of the four and feel the change.
It's a real drag to be around someone who has something negative to say about almost everything. Accentuating the positive can make a noticeable difference. For example, you can declare the latest party you threw was a total bust because not many friends showed up or you could be delighted over the company of those who attended.
Looking at the glass as half-full is nourishing to our soul. By leaving out the negative observations and focusing on something good, you'll elevate your inner state. In addition, you'll positively affect those around you. As you go through your day, systematically replace the automatic "no" with "yes, yes, yes."
Who doesn't love being told what they're doing right? In his book, The Power of Positive Parenting, Dr. Glenn Latham, a noted child psychologist, suggests that the ratio between praise and corrective feedback should be about ten to one. And this concept doesn't just apply to children. Across the board, it's infinitely more effective to praise actions that you want to encourage than to punish those you disapprove of.
People can't get enough genuine praise, so keep it coming, especially when someone is going through a difficult time. Some examples of praise are:
- I'm glad you brought that up.
- You did a good job.
- I like what you just said.
A simple gesture of appreciation can be all that's needed to bring love and connection into the room. Expressing appreciations for others doesn't negate the differences we might have, but it can boost the good we see in each other. Instead of criticizing and judging, focus on characteristics or actions that you admire and voice them.
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Appreciations can be general or specific. Here are some examples of strong appreciations:
- I appreciate how you helped me around the house on Saturday.
- I appreciate your sense of integrity.
- I like how thoughtful you are.
- I appreciate that you cleaned your room this morning.
- I'm glad you understand how I feel about this.
Expressing thanks for what we usually take for granted serves to remind us of how fortunate and blessed we are. Giving thanks keeps the focus on our bounty and offsets complaints and feelings of entitlement. Specific gratitudes may be:
- I'm grateful for my good health.
- I'm grateful for my friends and family.
- I'm grateful for this meal.
- Thank you.
How To Know What's Kind
Sometimes we get caught in our heads and are not quite sure how to be kind in the present moment. When this happens, pause for a minute and then ask yourself these questions...
- What is most loving?
- What is most compassionate?
- What is most kind?
- Will what I'm about to say move me towards love and connection?
When the answer is "yes," proceed. If it's "no," be quiet and search further.
How to Receive Acts of Kindness
Giving kindness is half of the equation. The other part is receiving what is offered. When we cringe, deflect, discount, and don't let the kindness in, it's because early messages have convinced us that we are not worthy. When someone offers kindness, we resist because we've been told it's selfish or self-centered to toot our own horn.
Being able to fully accept appreciations, thanks, and gratitudes is a major step in reclaiming our self-esteem. Shake your head up and down, think "yes," and after a pause, either say "thank you" or "will you please tell me that again because that feels so good."
The bottom line is sometimes it's hard to accept acts of kindness that are being offered. You can do that by silencing your inner and outer critic. When someone offers to lend a hand, say "thank you" and take in the gift you've just been given. At first, it might not be easy but it's a great habit to cultivate.
The Final Step
Try writing three of your accomplishments, appreciations of yourself or others, or gratitudes every evening for a month. The practice of hanging out in kindness will lighten your load, brighten your outlook, and lift your heart. It's so simple to do something for your world and make your love and feelings of connection blossom.
Want to find out which destructive attitudes and emotions dominate your character? Take a quick survey here, then try the suggested strategies designed to address them.
©2017 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.
Book by the Author
Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
About the Author
Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education. Visit her website at AttitudeReconstruction.com/
* Watch an interview with Jude Bijou: How to Experience More Joy, Love and Peace