Spread kindness

Listening to the UN Secretary General António Guterres Appeal to Address and Counter COVID-19 Hate Speech I was inspired by his simple and clear words.

I got specially curious and enthusiastic about this line:

And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness.

Perhaps because I am a psychologist working a lot from the positive psychology perspective, which focus on promoting and boosting positive factors instead of focusing on the problems, I loved this idea of spreading kindness.

In my work with girls and women I use a lot the words kindness and self-compassion. And, more than just words, what I try to do is to activate kindness and self-compassion practices: from idea to action!

I am aware that pain doesn’t go away with kindness. Or, better said, today’s kindness can’t erase hate and pain. But it can certainly remind people that there is good in the world, there are people living according to values of love, kindness, peace and acceptance. And this is essential to change a world-view, to open a smile, to trigger even a nice and friendly conversation.

So, my invitation to you is to be kind towards the others and towards yourself too.

In order to be kind towards the others you can rely on simple practices like the following:

  • Smile to a person you don’t know on the street.
  • Say a nice word to someone.
  • Help someone to do something.
  • Ask “how are you” with a true desire of knowing it.
  • Say “I disagree” without anger. It’s ok to have a different view!

If you want to go further, follow Derek Black and Matthew Stevenson inspiring way and invite a person with whom you strongly disagree to your dinner table (perhaps an online dinner table meeting!), befriending radical disagreement. Not easy I know, but certainly we need to open up to more difficult conversations if we want to decrease the polarisation we live in today. 

On the other hand, to be kind towards yourself I strongly advise to:

Don’t be too harsh on yourself when a racist, or other -ist, thought comes to your mind. Accept it and remind yourself you have been raised in this world, thus you have also internalised racism, sexism, xenophobia, and so on. As Sonya Renee Taylor wisely reminds in her book “The body is not an apology”, these thoughts don’t belong to you, they have been imposed on you through socialisation.

Kindness in this context means acceptance, and only this last can lead you to slowly change the automatic thoughts that arise in your mind without your permission.

Don’t throw the baby with the bathwater. Means: don’t confuse yourself with your behaviors, words, emotions and mistakes. Learn to say to yourself “I made a mistake” instead of “I am awful”. The same is true for the way you relate with others.

Say some nice words to yourself, acknowledging for instance the progress you’ve made in your path as an activist, or in liberating yourself from racism or other -isms. 

It’s good to have a kindness mantra to rely on during difficult moments. Write it on a bright day when you feel full of joy and confidence. It will certainly be a very nice mantra.

So, how are you going to spread kindness today, tomorrow, the day after…?!

The article is written by Ana Rodrigues Afonso

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