Recent events in my life have forced me to adopt a new paradigm on kindness.
I used to say that unkindness was inexcusable in a loving relationship, whether it be a marriage, family, or social group, but a wise friend pointed out to me that the more you love someone the more you need to excuse them.
My new thought is that being kind or unkind is a choice you make. Every time you approach someone or interact with someone, you make the choice to do so with kindness or unkindness. If you choose to do so with unkindness, even if it’s excusable, it’s still a choice.
Email is the clearest example because you can be as deliberate or vague as you want with your kindness and unkindness. There are two steps to email, the sending and the receiving. When you are composing email you have three choices: to be clearly kind, to be clearly unkind, or to fall back on your default. When you are reading email you also have three choices: to consciously make the assumption that the writer is kind, to consciously make the assumption that the writer is unkind, or to fall back on your default reading of people.
Defaults are tricky things, and often you aren’t aware of your own default.
Here’s an interesting test I came across lately. Complete the following sentence:
“I love my parents, but __________.”
If you are an American, you likely answered with something similar to “I love my Parents, but i hate it when they nag at me” or ” I love my parents, but they just don’t understand me.” That’s a pretty standard American response, and when I took this test I couldn’t even imagine what the opposite of this would be.
When the test was given to people in East Asian countries, a very different set of responses came back. Suddenly the overwhelming response was something more similar to “I love my parents, but I could never repay them for all they’ve done for me.”
Sadly, the American default is unkindness.
So what choice are you going to make today? Whatever your choice, with every step you take and every sentence you say or type…think about it, and make it deliberate.