Kindness is a popular idea – but it only goes so far. We want more than just kindness, we want loving kindness – a state of genuine care.
The day I first wrote this, I gave a talk to the General Santa Barbara Clergy Association. This is a group of people who have devoted their lives to the service of faith, counseling, and speaking (all things I do myself, though not representing a faith!). I was honored to share some of my work with them, and even more so, for the warm reception around my talk.
You see, I was talking about words and the importance of choosing our words wisely. I was talking about a word at the center of many world faiths – love – and how to share that with people.
This fit in very nicely with Random Acts of Kindness Day, which happened to be the same day.
Changing Your Vocabulary (A Path to Loving Kindness)
I have removed a TON of negative words (and phrases) from my vocabulary. In an effort to focus on the positive, I always reference other people in positive terms. I don’t name-call, or use my words to shame (though I have in the past, been capable of adept cruelty with the flick of my tongue).
Instead, I use words to lift people up – regardless of how much I like them (or don’t). It doesn’t matter to me whether I like them – they are still a human being and have inherent value as such. They are still deserving of all the good things in life.
So I share how I appreciate them. I compliment them. Sometimes I ask how they are doing or wish them well. I often celebrate their successes with a few kind words (and honestly, at least one emoji!). This is a way that I express love in action, or loving kindness, to myself and to everyone I meet. It’s an easy way for me to do this, but I do have to be careful because even though I do my best to use loving words, it is possible for them to be misunderstood.
My Trouble With “Kind”
Words are tricky because they’re abstract. They involve our perceptions which are shaped by our identities (think: gender, race, age, etc). We do the best we can to communicate out of love, but the reality is, there are times when someone will misunderstand, or we’ll mess up. It happens.
A single word can have many nuanced meanings.
For example, I used to have a problem with the word “kind.” Kind was not helpful from my perspective.
I know. You might be thinking, “Kindness?! Who could have a problem with kindness?!”“Kindness?! Who could have a problem with kindness?!” #raok #compassion Click To Tweet
But here is where context becomes important. Kindness, to me, meant “lying.” In the past (and in conservative circles even today), women were told to be kind – to please people – no matter how they felt. It was a form of coercion and lying. It was the opposite of loving. Kindness, therefore, was enabling a false reality. It enabled cruelty, shame, and guilt.
There’s also the fact that I grew up in New York. There, “kindness” was something like saccharin, false sweetness trying hard to be sugar, but in reality, it was poison. It was lukewarm – not real caring – and therefore, it couldn’t be trusted.
So I didn’t want people to be kind. I didn’t want them to lie to me. Instead, I wanted them to be truthful to themselves and others. I wanted them to care.
Truth, I thought, was more loving. Care required emotional investment. I was honest because I cared.
Now I know things are more complicated than this, and there are different types of kindness (some of which are lying, and others that are totally genuine). I understand MOST people read “kind” as “care,” and even “love.”
And that definition, I can TOTALLY get behind!
Random Acts of Loving Kindness
Even though I’m cool with kindness, I want us to use a stronger word. I want us to REALLY commit to the sentiment behind the word. This is because when we say “random acts of kindness” what we intend is actually “random acts of love.” We mean genuine care. It’s a bit stronger than “kind” – it’s compassion.
One of the Buddhist translations of “compassion” is “loving kindness.” It distinguishes between “kindness” and “loving kindness” because of some of the reasons I stated above. You COULD be kind without being loving, and that’s not our goal. We want to be loving.
There are hundreds of things we could do that might be random acts of loving kindness – and some of them take a lot of effort (like volunteering at a shelter for victims of domestic violence) and others take very little effort at all (smiling at a stranger on the street).
But here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter what the random acts are – so long as we do them. Why? Because that is how we become our best selves. That is what we are MEANT to do, as human beings. To become the human ideal – what Spirit calls us to be – what we know in our heart of hearts – we must throw love around like parade candy!
We’ve got to sprinkle that ALL OVER THE PLACE!Let's throw love around like parade candy! Click To Tweet
For Spiritual Creatives, It’s Easy!
I know spiritual creatives will have an EASY time with this. Why? Because you have SO MANY options for doing this. Most of you are on social media on the regular. You’ve got your websites. Plus you’re doing different events. And all through these spaces, there are words.
Random “acts” can also be “words.” This is because words shape reality. When we tell ourselves a story, it shapes how we interact with the world around us. On the other hand, we can also change that story, thereby changing our experience.
When we write uplifting stories for others to read, it changes their experience. It’s a little loving seed planted in the heart.When we write uplifting stories for others to read, it changes their experience. It's a little loving seed planted in the heart. Click To Tweet
I’d love a movement of creatives who write with love – complete love. It would be amazing to see a group of us using our incredible powers to speak the words that need hearing – the messages that need to get out – that light up everyone’s heart who reads them. I’d like to see a huge group of us all writing words that send ripples through space and time, expanding people’s hearts – driving them to love in action.
Random Acts of Loving Kindness For Today
Get started with a few random acts of loving kindness today:
- Smile at a stranger
- Give someone a hug
- Write an appreciate note to 3 people (bonus points if you do it for 5 – or get REALLY AWESOME and do 10!)
- Commit to stop using derogatory names, and instead describe actions for the day
- Post some flowers around your social feeds (seeing flowers boosts people’s moods)
- Give someone a gift
- Pick up someone else’s mess… without being asked!
These are just a FEW awesome things you could do to spread some love and light around your community today. But if you want to get REALLY intense, grab a copy of my Random Acts of Loving Kindness Checklist from my resource library and start going through different spaces in your life (you can even turn it into a game to do with friends!).No matter what random acts of loving kindness you choose, amazing things will happen as a result, and it will be so worth it. Click To Tweet
And of course, use your words for awesome – for yourself and others.
No matter what random acts of loving kindness you choose, amazing things will happen as a result, and it will be so worth it.
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- Neither Selfish or Selfless – Only Loving! - April 30, 2018