Courage and kindness have been reoccurring themes in my life lately.
Last week I saw the new “Cinderella” movie. I’m a huge Disney princess lover (having two small girls is just a cover-up), so I was giddy about this experience. Simply stated…I loved it. One of the reasons I loved it so much was because of the amazing lesson(s) of this film. There is the classic Cinderella moral: “Dream big and never give up hope.” But the focus was much more on the lesson that Cinderella’s mother tells her before her passing: “Have courage and be kind.” The future princess takes this lesson straight to the heart and makes it the mantra of her life. “Have courage and be kind” is repeated throughout the movie. The more I heard it, the more I loved it. It’s a lesson everyone should learn.
This movie was not the only place that this lesson showed up for me last week. The sermon at a church I visited was all about loving one another and showing kindness. The book that I’m reading has discussed it. And it’s been a topic in my workplace and with my family.
Whenever I have a decision to with a potentially controversial outcome, I try to get a second opinion. Sometimes I want to do things that are viewed as “too nice” by my consultants. And I hear, “You know that they would never do that for you!” I’ve been thinking a lot about that statement and it seems to me as if…
Remember that from grade school? The Golden Rule is to treats others the way that you would want them to treat you. Not how you think they would treat you. Why is it that we teach this to our children and put it in all of our movies and then act like it doesn’t apply to us adults?
As a Christian, the Golden Rule should be how I live my life. Jesus said to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself (see Matthew 22:36-39). If I am not living a life of kindness and love, I am not living a Christian life. Plain and simple. God loves me and forgives me despite my multitude of flaws and shortcomings, so I should extend that same grace to others.
But what about those of you who may not share my faith. Why should you choose to live a life of kindness?
In one of my philosophy classes in college, I learned about Immanuel Kant. His idea of “universal law” has stuck with me forever. To summarize, take a concept or a behavior and imagine what the world would be like if everyone acted according to that concept or behavior. Take stealing for an example. Imagine that everyone in the world steals. What kind of world would we have? A terrible one, right? So, stealing is wrong. What if everyone always lied? Or only cared about themselves? The world would again be awful, so those things are also wrong. Now imagine that everyone in the world decided to be kind. To think about others’ need and treat others well. What kind of world would we have? A better one. So…that is the right thing to do.
You can choose to make the world a better place.
What kind of world would have if we all treated people the way that we expected them to treat us back? I guess it would depend on our expectations. But if we expect to be treated badly, and therefore treat others badly, how are we any better? Instead, use the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would want them to treat you. It’s called kindness.
By the way, kindness is NOT weakness. In fact, it is the opposite. Kindness is a sign of strength. Hurting people is a sign of weakness and insecurity. “Hurt people hurt people.” Think about it. And be honest with yourself. When you talk badly about another person, doesn’t it make you feel better than them? When you “bring someone down a notch” what good does it really do you? You feel better about yourself. You hurt others because you are deeply hurt. But it’s not healthy to act that way. You should work on what’s hurting you rather than trying to add company to your misery.
When I hear someone saying something nasty about someone else, all I can think now is “What is at the core of this?” It’s rarely what it seems. My point here is that kindness is not for the faint of heart, but in fact, it is for the strong of heart. (Fun fact: My blog was originally called Strong of Heart Wellness.)
Here is where courage comes in…It takes courage to be kind. And to do the right thing. And to live a life pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone. It takes courage to care less about what people think of you and to care more about being sincere. When you spend your time worrying about what other people think (i.e. being self-conscious), you can miss the opportunity to really be kind. Instead, turn your focus onto other people’s experiences. Make them feel comfortable. They will (probably) end up liking you anyway and you will feel better for having made them feel good.
It also takes courage to be ourselves. Most of us act like a mirror reflecting what everyone expects of us. Anyone that steps out of the norm is talked about negatively. There will always be “naysayers.” Don’t let them decide who you are. They would rather see you be boring and average because it is uncomfortable for them to see others shine (that’s where the insecurity thing comes in). Shine anyway. Some will be inspired and decide it’s their time to shine too.
These are all lessons that I am learning and working on myself. I am very aware that I need much improvement in areas of kindness and courage. I have spent way too much time worrying about other people’s perception of me. I have tried to cover up my “goody two shoes” personality because I thought it wasn’t “cool.” But…it’s kind of who I am. And now I celebrate that about myself. It feels so much better to be loved for who I am than for who I’m not anyway.
My struggles with my own courage have made me more kind. I am more understanding of people who are trying to be themselves. I want to encourage them and tell them to be strong. Strangely, I also feel more sympathetic to mean, hurtful people because I see them for what they are: hurt people. I don’t think being hurt is an excuse for meanness, but I am more sympathetic to their weakness. Hurting others because you are hurt perpetuates a terrible cycle— one that I want to be part of breaking.
Who’s with me?
You may also like my post: 4 Lessons We Can All Learn in the Suicide Epidemic
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” -Mother Teresa
“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.”1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 (emphasis added)
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
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