The Honest Faith: How to be Kind
Surprisingly, maybe I should wipe that word from my vocabulary, I received a lot of negative feedback from last week’s article. I’m not sure why kindness rubs people the wrong way. I think it’s primarily due to the fact that if other people are mean why can’t I be mean back? Regardless, there was one question that had stuck in my mind and inspired the writing of this weeks post. The comment in question is still up on the article from last week, but essentially asked, “How do we be kind?” So, in an effort to follow that up and help out with the Resistance in a kind way, I am going to lay out some tactics of being kind.
1. Recognize the humanity of the other.
In march of last year VOX published an article about “The Dark psychology of Dehumanization”. It focuses primarily on the American view of Muslim people. Though I think it can tell us a lot about how we treat people on the internet. Just anyone you disagree with on social media. How do you see them? Do you picture some middle-aged man who still lives in his parent’s basement with a brace for his carpal tunnel syndrome? Does this caricature make that person less human than you?
What I have started to do on social media platforms has been to first recognize the humanity of the other person. I have done this by stating right off the bat, I recognize you as a human being with a opnion that may be different to my own. I often will add that I request the other person do the same for me and get to know why I hold my opinion instead of dismissing me off-hand. This has not really had a high success rate as many just want to start fights, and win. But as I talked about in our podcast on Sunday, it’s not about winning. It’s about doing the right thing, above all it’s about being kind.
I mean this in a few ways as this has more than a few different methods attached to it. But as they all relate to this word, we’ll keep it as just one step. First, disconnect your emotions from the conversation. I know it may be difficult, especially when it is a topic that you feel very strongly about. For me there is a lot that I feel very strongly about due to the fact that I love people. I’m an idealist, and I want all to have the same opportunities. same love, and same respect as everyone else. So this part of the step has been difficult for me. A friend of mine told me the best way to do this is focus on the facts. I actually succeeded in this yesterday. I had a “Conversation” with someone via twitter regarding gun control and that it is not as highly regulated has he believes. I stayed on point and focused on the facts even when he began with the ad hominem fallacies. I stayed disconnected and even took the opportunity to reaffirm his humanity before moving on to the second part of this step.
The second part is to disconnect from the conversation. We need to learn to recognize when it has become all about winning for either side. This is really when you get into the fallacies of circular logic, ad hominem attacks, or moving the goal posts. There are many more, but you get the idea. When the falacies begin to creep into the conversation, it has become just about winning for one of the parties. It is time to end the conversation there, because it is not a conversation anymore, it’s an argument. I would like to also point out that nobody wins in an argument. People just dig their heels in and believe whatever it was the believed to begin with even more at the beginning. It doesn’t do anyone any good, so in order to be kind, you need to remove yourself from that and allow time for both parties to cool off.
This may be the most difficult one that I list here because it is probably the hardest thing to do when you are heated and even invested in your own “winning”. I had an amazing experience that was quickly killed by further “conversation” with said person, but I’m going to focus on the positive (step 4). I had tweeted out my disapproval of my senator who does not seem to listen to his constituents and his staying within party lines for the supposed “Tax Plan”, and wheat had just been approved by my state senate in regards to making an unfair rule even more unfair. So he immediately replied and said I was wrong and misinformed. I replied back that I recognized his humanity and his right to hold an opinion. I then invited him to be in conversation with me and discover why I hold my own personal opinion. He actually did. He direct messaged me. He read my story, and then shared his own. I took the opportunity to find something in his story to compliment. It was incredible to see why he believed this way and how it actually did benefit him to have said “Tax Plan” go into effect. This may be tough to find something for your to compliment the other on, but I would recommend doing so.
The conversation was immediately replaced with a bad feeling, as I had made a tweet late last night with one of the trending hashtags on the platform, with a joke. He replied to that tweet telling me why I was wrong with that joke… Oh well, can’t have nice things all the time.
4. Focus on the Positive
This is very difficult to do these days as well. It seems that everything is bleak and that we live in a time of only darkness and destruction. Especially for those of us who see the pain that others are feeling and can’t really see the good points of a lot of what’s been going on. Sometimes there are some good things going on and it takes a moment to just rest your spirit and take stock of what is around. We have not lost all that we have loved. We have to save a lot of it still, but there are some things that we love that are flourishing around us. Sometimes you need to just stop, take a second and realize the humanity of those you are conversing with. You will see the good. You will see the silver linings. Sometimes there isn’t any, you may need to move on to step 5 sooner than in other situations, but remain focused on the positive things.
5. Know when to stop.
I have learned a lot about myself in the past year and a half. I have learned my limits when it comes to emotional investment. I’ve learned when I need to take a step back. I’ve learned when what I am doing is making no difference whatsoever, and therefore I need to just stop. This is a way to be kind to yourself. You need to learn when your limits are being breached. You need to learn when to just disconnect and say, I can’t take this anymore. Being kind to yourself is really important. If you are unable to care for yourself, how can you care for others?
I think above all we need to learn that we are not alone. That is where all of these points come together. When we as human beings realize that we are not the only ones struggling and that some of our struggles look like the struggles of others we can come together and begin to fix those struggles and the things that catalyze those struggles. This is why my mission of Tikkun Olam (Repair the World) looks the way that it does. It is my effort to show others that they are not alone, and that their struggles matter too. When we begin to see that we can work together in kindness to Repair the World. So may you know that you are not alone, and your struggles matter. Let’s work together to Repair the World.