The Power of Kindness
I was thinking this week about the power of kindness. A glance at the evening news reminds us that we need to be kinder to each other. The news and media bombard us with negativity and focus on the bad news. It is easy to become indifferent but we have to actively choose to go beyond the headlines. One important way we can do that is choosing kindness, it means choosing empathy over apathy. The Power of Kindness can be as simple as a smile or as brief as a kind word, but these can send ripples of goodness around our community. These random acts of kindness don’t make the news, but there is a science behind and a law of sowing and reaping that is very positive.
How much control do we have over our emotions?
It is easier to become apathetic rather than empathetic. We can judge people and situations based on our own prejudices and biases. What would happen if we took the time to try and understood what is happening with that person and we respond with empathy and kindness.
When I watch a film I get absorbed in the emotions of that film. It makes me laugh or cry, fearful or joyful, anxious or calm. I am aware of the emotions. This is the power of story telling.
“The dew of compassion is a tear.”Lord Byron
Stories can help us be more empathetic.
Some studies have taken place where convicts have studied works of literature prior to their release. The discussions that come out of these studies have allowed the inmates to reflect on their own lives and positively reflect on how they should live on their release.
Stories are powerful metaphors that help us to relate to a character and reflect on our own life experience. We can learn from the experiences of the character and choose how we respond to the situations we face in our own lives.
Caring for a sick or ill relative.
Most people experience the challenge of caring for a loved one who is sick at some point in their lives. This can be very difficult and draining to see a loved one get ill and takes a toll on the carer’s health as well. It can lead to high rates of depression in carers. Particularly those in the health care profession can either develop empathy or apathy. A programme called Resilience In Stressful Events (RISE) provides health care professionals the opportunity to talk about these traumas and get counselling. It has been shown to be highly effective in reducing burn out and days off for those dealing with difficult care scenarios.
Monkey see, Monkey do
The phrase “Monkey see, Monkey do”, refers to the tendency for human beings to confirm to the herd behaviour. A response to this can be to implement zero tolerance programmes. Whilst the motive may seems legitimate i.e zero tolerance to violence in schools for example. This can create a them and us confrontation between the teachers and students and remove a common sense response.
An alternative is making society systems more empathetic, as it encourages people to be kinder. Studies in a school where the pupils were asked to identify the rules that should be in place focused on stopping gossiping and bullying. When the students took ownership of implementing the solutions the result was more effective. The result here was kinder systems which created kinder students.
Low empathy is associated with Problematic use of the internet
Technology can be a force for good or bad. It can magnify the negative and bombard us with the bad news. Advertising that targets our likes can funnel us down to certain content or world views which creates a distorted perspective on the world. We need to intentionally seek out balance in our lives. A study of internet users in China and Germany showed empirical evidence of low empathy associated with high internet use in both cultures.
Technology is of course very positive if used in the right way, but we need to work on our basic relationships of kindness and humility to everyone. My challenge is how can I do this in the projects I run with the people I work with. I think the answer is step by step, day by day with individual acts of kindness and that will bear fruit.
“We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.”Mother Teresa
Empathy feels good and is good for our health but choosing empathy is not easy.
We can kill cruelty with kindness.
Suggestions for actions.
Keep a diary of your emotions – How you are feeling?
Try to get to know someone you don’t understand so you can appreciate where they are coming from.
Do a random act of kindness for a stranger.