Navigating the multi and varied chasms of life is at times difficult and challenging. Especially when your job is picking up the pieces from abuse and neglect. Hearing the abuse experiences of children as young as a few years old has the tendency to unhinge even the staunchest among us. So, it was imperative as a therapist that I find a touchstone to give me strength and to guide me. Sometime in the middle of my career I settled on kindness.
As I was writing Kindness in a Scary World, a children’s book about terrorism, I was thinking about the complexities of human emotions and the role emotions play in terrorism. How can we give children a sense of agency when so many adults feel powerless against terrorism? I wondered what would happen if everyone met everyone else, including ourselves, with kindness. What would happen to the armor of anger? How would the world change? How would we change as a species? How would we live our lives differently?
Being kind is very hard when others are not kind to you. It is in those moments when I sometimes wish to change my touchstone and stop being kind. However, I have discovered it is in those moments that being kind is the most important thing I can do. I have learned that people cannot give what they have not experienced. So, in order for someone else to have the opportunity to be kind, I have to treat them with kindness.
As humans we use anger to cover other emotions when feeling those emotions is perceived as unsafe to us. Sometimes we are covering fear, sometimes sadness. We use anger because it keeps others at a distance, protecting us from what we perceive as a threat. We even use anger as a preemptive strike to stop any perceived harm against us.
In the United States a person who is kind is often considered weak, unable to stand up for himself. Showing kindness sometimes is misinterpreted by others as enabling the recipient to avoid being self-reliant and/or independent. Kindness is not always met with open-heartedness. It is sometimes met with intense anger because the other person identifies the kindness as a ruse to get close enough to harm him. Yet, there is no harder concept to consistently put into action than kindness. And to do it consistently you must have a strong will and a belief that being kind will, in the long-run, be beneficial.
Kindness is something that everyone can show no matter their age, abilities, socio-economic status, race, or religion. When we have something we can do, we feel less helpless, less powerless, less hopeless. Kindness benefits everyone. We do not always see the results of kindness immediately. Often kindness is more like a drop of water on stone. It sculpts a life or a culture over time.
Rebecca J. Hubbard is a master’s level children’s, family and marriage therapist with a focus on helping those who have experienced traumatic events. She has been working to heal people for more than 22 years and currently works through Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center in Georgetown, Texas. Rebecca is also the founder of a private practice using Natural Lifemanship, a trauma-focused psychotherapy model utilizing horses. She has just released her book, Kindness in a Scary World.