My sons know the phrase well: please, be kind. I say this to them over and over, all the time, and it’s my response to almost any issue or argument they bring me.
When they are at odds about which movie to watch after dinner: please, be kind. When they are jumping in the car to buckle up and head to a friend’s house: please, be kind. When they are dropped off at school with their teacher: please, be kind. And when they’ve had their feelings hurt by another child or adult: please, be kind.
Now, I don’t know about you, but every time I turn on the television to watch the morning news or scroll through social media, kindness seems hard to find. A lack of it is what makes me think all things have gone by the wayside. In a time when the world is in such a vulnerable place, why not just be kind to one another?
The answer is simple: sometimes it’s hard to be kind. When we disagree with one another or feel passionately about our views, it can be hard to show compassion to the other side. Leaning into kindness comes with practice. It comes with learning that everyone’s views are valid, even if you happen to disagree with them.
Personally, disagreeing is something I’m quite good at, but not proud of. I have strong opinions and always have. When I was in elementary school, I was very chatty and not so good at listening. Fortunately, my classmates put up with my assertiveness, until one teacher really put things into perspective for me.
My third-grade teacher—yes, I can remember that far back!—often said to us, “You don’t have to agree with one another, but you do have to be kind.”
Simple, but powerful words. I don’t think I fully appreciated that phrase then, but I do remember hearing it over and over and over again. And guess what? It stuck. That’s because repetition leads to retention. At least for me, it did.
Although I was never unkind to my peers, I never listened well either. I heard opinions but often responded by speaking louder with my own. Throughout my adolescence and young adulthood, I struggled with finding a balance between sharing my points of view while also trying to better understand the views of others. No one is perfect, but practice can get us closer to it.
Being kind can mean so many things—but, mainly, it means giving others the space to be themselves and giving yourself the grace to be you. Being kind might seem simple, but it’s something I feel strongly about. It’s something I want my children to feel, share, and retain throughout their lives.
Even when it feels hard, kindness always wins. It is through kindness that change is made. And it is through kindness that people are made to feel heard, appreciated, and included.
Admittedly, it’s hard to practice what you preach. I am not perfect, nor am I always kind when I feel upset or hurt. But I try to put my best foot—and thoughts—forward as often as I can. And I expect the same from my boys. Because at the end of the day, no matter how smart, athletic, funny, or good-looking you might be, people don’t remember outward appearances. They remember how you made them feel. They remember kindness.
So please, let’s lean in, and let’s be kind.