Last week, on one of those rainy, dreary days, I received a blog post from one of my favorite writers, Glennon Doyle Melton. This particular piece was about marriage AND divorce. It made me think of a woman who I heard is going through a separation. I don’t know her well, but my heart swelled with compassion for her, the difficulty and challenges of marriage and the decision to divorce.
I wrote a few sentences to her with the link in the email, paused and convinced myself not to send it. A voice said, “Listen to your heart, not your head.” I pressed send.
A few minutes later, I received a note back from her that shared she didn’t realize word had spread. In an instant, my heart started beating quickly and I felt like I perhaps overstepped a boundary and should have kept to myself.
“It’s not your place to inject yourself into other people’s lives,” I thought.
I replied to this woman that I remember the difficulty of when my parents divorced and can only imagine the many feelings she must be experiencing. I also apologized if I overstepped any boundaries.
I went back and forth for some time on whether I did the right thing by sending this email and wondering if I perhaps should have kept quiet and not said anything.
I thought about my friend who lost her brother to suicide. She shared how people didn’t say anything to her about it even though she knew that they knew.
In my musings back and forth I found myself caught in a dilemma. Do we keep quiet and not extend genuine kindness? Or do we follow our heart and connect with kindness? How often do we think about reaching out and then don’t? In my contemplations, I didn’t come up with an answer and felt torn because there was perhaps truth in both.
These contemplations touched on something deeper that I’ve been thinking about lately.
Where has genuine kindness gone between human beings? More and more, it feels like we are quick to judge, find the negative and be defensive.
I am not talking about the socially accepted kindness of raising money, putting on a fundraiser or writing a check.
I am talking about the kindness in asking how someone you love is doing and letting them talk. Looking the homeless person in the eyes at the intersection. Giving the crabby person the benefit of the doubt. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding their perspective. Extending compassion to the angry person who has lashed out. Hugging a dear friend. Thinking about the goodness in people rather than only their faults. Making time to go on a walk with a friend. Or reaching out to someone who is going through a difficult time.
There’s a part in all of us that is resistant to giving and receiving kindness, myself included. My heart’s tendency is to close down and tighten up when it hurts or afraid of being rejected. Kindness doesn’t always flow out easily. I also know that a tight heart is the one place where love, joy and kindness cannot flow in and out.
Being kind, reaching out, letting someone know that you are thinking about them can feel vulnerable. It hurts when in our vulnerability we are rejected, aren’t seen, aren’t validated, etc. But being kind isn’t about what the other person reflects, sees, receives or appreciates. It’s about lifting people up and supporting people visibility and invisibly. It’s about remembering that we are all in this journey of life together.
Not everyone will receive your kindness even when you have pure and sincere intentions, but trust your intentions. Trust your sincerity. Be kind without expectations or agendas. Practice kindness even when it feels vulnerable. Practice letting kindness into your heart. Practice kindness toward yourself.
When I felt I had made a mistake by extending kindness to this woman, my heart tightened. Later in the day there was a note in my inbox that read, “Thanks for reaching out. Your thoughtfulness was welcoming.” My heart opened and softened.