“Adults are starved for a kind word. “
– Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert
Kindness. The possibility of kindness and being both a source of and an opening for kindness speaks to me, calls me, moves-touches-uplifts me. Standing in and living from this possibility I notice that you/i/we are kind at a deeper level. And at the deeper level we long to express this kindness to put into the world and to receive it. So why is it that kindness has yet to blossom?
It occurs to me that fear is the biggest obstacle to the blossoming of kindness. What fear? To get this fear it is essential to get that you and I are ‘thrown’ into this world and in this world one does not show kindness. There is no agreement for kindness to show up. It takes something to allow kindness to come forth and flower. What does it take? Courage. Not being ‘naturally courageous’ I find that I must generate this courage.
I find the following ‘story’ a source of courage and a call to stand firm in the possibility of being an opening for kindness to show up in this world. And as such I share it with you.
“One young lady …… was so frightened that she literally couldn’t form words. In the cool, air conditioned room, beads of sweat ran from her forehead down to her chin and dropped on the carpet….. A few words came out, just barely, she returned to her seat defeated, humiliated, broken.
Then an interesting thing happened. I rank it as one of the most fascinating things I have ever witnessed. The instructor went to the front of the class and looked at the broken student. The room was dead silent. I’ll always remember his words. He said, “Wow. That was brave.”
My brain spun in my head. Twenty-some students had been thinking this woman had just crashed and burned in the most dramatically humiliating way. She had clearly thought the same thing. In four words, the instructor had completely reinterpreted the situation. Every one of us knew the instructor was right. We had just witnessed an extraordinary act of personal bravery, the likes of which one rarely sees.
I looked at the student’s face as she reacted to the instructors comment. She had been alone in her misery, fighting a losing fight. But somehow the instructor understood what has happening inside her and he respected it. I swear I saw a light come on in her eyes. She looked up from the floor…. The next week she volunteered to speak again…
There are several things to learn from the story. The most important is the transformative power of praise versus the corrosive impact of criticism. I’ve had a number of occasions since then to test the power of praise, and I find it an amazing force, especially for adults……. adults can go weeks without a compliment while enduring criticism both at work and at home. Adults are starved for a kind word. When you understand the power of honest praise (as opposed to bullshitting, flattery and sucking up), you realise withholding it border on the immoral….”
“Wow. That was brave,” is the best and cleanest example I’ve seen in which looking at something in a different way changes everything. ….”
– Scott Adams, How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big
It occurs to me that if you-i-we reframe how we look at kindness then it changes everything. We can choose to see kindness as an opportunity to turn on the light inside ourselves and our fellow human beings, to bring joy into our daily existence, and contribute to creating a world that works for all, none excluded.
As I write the closing words, I find myself totally present to the kindness that has shown up in my existence this week. The kindness of my wife, the kindness of my daughter, the kindness of my sons, the kinds of my niece, the kindness of my colleagues, the kindness of those of you who have reached out to me to let me know that my speaking here on this blog makes a contribution. Thank you. I am truly grateful that you existence and deeply moved by the contribution to make my existence.