I think one of the most challenging parts of kindness is how uncommon it is in our culture. Oftentimes, when we do something randomly or overtly kind for someone else, the initial reaction is, “this is weird” or “what do you want from me?” This can feel like rejection and that can be frustrating. Who likes to feel rejected when you’re trying to be kind?
But here is my reminder: the things we do in kindness are never bad. We might not be perfect at introducing ourselves to new people or we might occasionally give an awkward compliment, but discomfort helps us grow. We might get weird looks or questions of ulterior motives or flat-out rejections - but I think this is an ESSENTIAL part of the process. Anytime we try to change the status quo, we are going to face pushback. It’s easy to think about pushback as rejection or failure, but what if we reframed it like this:
Everyone craves to feel loved and important - everyone is looking for hope and authentic relationships in their lives. People react weirdly to kindness not because they don’t want it, but because 1) they aren’t used to it and/or 2) they want proof that you are real. That this isn’t a one time thing. It’s not a part of a “Kindness Week” or a graded assignment or because of a club you’re in. They want proof that you are doing this because you genuinely care - so they push back and they question or criticize or reject because all of us know that real LOVE isn’t a one time exercise - it is a repeated, consistent action. We prove that we LOVE people by earning their trust, wading through their skepticism, doubt, and rejections. We LOVE people unconditionally regardless of how awkward or uncomfortable or rejected they make us feel because we believe in their worthiness to be loved.
Every person on our campus wants kindness. Our job is to earn their trust enough so that, when we give kindness, they believe that we mean it. So, here are three ways to practice love that might get you some awkward looks...
PRACTICE. LOVE in ACTION.
Hold the Door: Use a piece of computer paper and a string to make a custom sign necklace with bold writing that says "Door Holder and Smile Giver." Head to somewhere safe and busy in your town and hold the door open for people for 30 minutes and smile as they walk in or out.
I Like Your Face: Give two verbal compliments to people you don't know at all or very well. Have them be specific and original - don't just say "I like your shirt!" but maybe something like, "Your shirt is really colorful - it brightened up my day!"
Let's Talk: Setup a table or chairs in your cafeteria and bring a deck of notecards with conversation starters like "What's the greatest superpower?" or "Who makes your favorite food and why is it the greatest?" or "What is the scariest nightmare you've ever had?" Invite people you don't know that well or at all at your school to have a "conversation with a potential new friend."
Discomfort is a necessary step in building Trust. So, lean in and get comfortable being uncomfortable.