Character VirtuesParentingPeace

The kindness paradox – familiarity may breed contempt!

Is it easier to be kind to friends, family, or strangers? (5 minute read)

Well, we commenced this journey to world peace with kindness. The idea was that if families focussed on kindness, noticed when others were kind, and planned to undertake at least one act of kindness a day, we would gradually become kinder. Kinder people = kinder families = kinder communities, etc, etc, etc.

However, like many things in life, the theory didn’t quite match the lived experience. Certainly, there was encouraging progress during ‘kindness’ month. By the end of the month, kindness was noticed more often. Kind acts were honoured and celebrated to a much greater extent. Kindness was mentioned (spontaneously) more often.

In fact, the word ‘kindness’ now had a familiar feel. It was welcomed by those in a ‘good’ mood, and had become a source of irritation to those in a ‘bad’ mood. Like most things in life, kindness was all about ‘me’ to everyone involved in this experiment. Timing, feelings, and our personal story at any given moment; determined each individual reaction to kindness.

The overwhelming lesson though, was also a very obvious one. It is relatively easy to be kind to a stranger, or to a friend or family member you have a positive relationship with. However, as the saying goes, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’.

Some family relationships lack trust, or, are categorised by a series of actions and automatic reactions. For example: ‘Here he/she goes again ….. I can’t stand this one more moment ….. How many times have I told you?….. He/she is always bugging me!’ They lack the goodwill to motivate kind words or acts. So, generally speaking, kindness was rarely extended between family members who shared weak to mediocre relationships.

In fact, any act of kindness in this direction, if not immediately recognised and saluted; had an overwhelmingly negative impact. Thus, the unrecognised (or not exalted ‘enough’) act of kindness became further evidence that the sibling or family member could not be trusted and was not worthy of kindness.

We needed to take a step back and build the family relationships first. Luckily, there are some simple steps (simple, not easy) to take in this direction. More on this next time as the adventure continues…..

“Your own soul is nourished when you are kind; it is destroyed when you are cruel” Proverbs 11:17

The time is always right to do what is right” Rev Martin Luther King Jr

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