The Cost of Kindness
Kindness, connection, racism, hate are the words that have been chasing each other around in my mind. I think they hold the answer to why we’re so fractured as a society. To why anxiety is at an all time high and the meth crisis rages on without a break.
Whether it is through growing cities or growing dependence on technology, we have drifted further and further from the connection we so badly need from one another. Hate cannot exist where there is connection, connection is the key to breaking the mental stories that keep us torn apart.
The cost of systemic hate is easy to see. Hate costs lives, it breaks families apart, divides communities, causes intergenerational trauma and sows the seeds of addiction and mental health problems.
It doesn’t matter if the hate is based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or some other random difference, the cost is always high.
Then, what is the cost of kindness? Don’t try to tell me there is no cost to being kind. There must be. If kindness didn’t have a cost, we would all be kind to each other all the time. Does it really take more effort to be kind than it does to scowl and look away?
I’ve been working on an online class called the Science of Wellbeing and in it, the instructor Laurie Santos teaches us about all the benefits of kindness. There are a lot. If you go out of your way to be kind, or even if you just spend more time focusing on the kindness you perceive in the world, you will be happier, healthier and just generally more awesome in everyday life.
But, what’s the catch?
I mean, sure, most of us are kind sometimes, but it is not the norm. It’s not what we expect from society. We don’t expect strangers on the street to smile and wish us a good day, we don’t expect that there will always be a helping hand if we need one. There is no expectation of finding kindness in our everyday life.
We don’t expect it of the world, therefore, we don’t expect it of ourselves either. If we have daily goals, they usually involve being more efficient or productive with our time. We strive to be more organized, to eat healthier and exercise. We don’t strive to be kinder.
The answer again leads us to a lack of connection.
Disconnection is what makes us look through the people who are walking past us on the street instead of at them. It is the power that causes us to talk badly about our coworkers. It’s what allows for the Commissioner of the RCMP to be unsure about whether there is systemic racism in our country’s police force.
We are unplugged from each other and when we are unplugged we seek connection wherever we can find it. We seek it in the story of us against them (you get to choose your ‘us’ and your ‘them’.) The more we are disconnected, the more we seek our connection through hate instead of kindness.
Kindness is a reaction to feeling attached to other people. When we don’t feel connected to the people around us, our willingness and desire to be kind evaporates and our egos take over. The ego muscles in and our compassion goes out the window.
Social distancing may be the new catch phrase in our world since the dawning of the Coronavirus, but emotional distancing has been a core part of Western Civilization from its birth. It is the force that allows people to enslave, kill, torture and isolate others.
In North America, we are all about individualism. Leadership skills and independence are prized as a part of our culture. If you look at your child’s report card, there is very little that rewards or measures kindness. We want to train our children to get ahead in the world. To strive forward and climb, without stopping to ask who they are climbing over.
As we drift further away from each other (in our big houses with attached garages), we lose our ability to understand each other and ourselves. Humans are not solitary animals, we cannot exist without each other, we were never meant to go it alone.
So, how did we come to this?
Unfortunately, kindness comes unarmed. The ego is encased in thick walls and carries sharp words, clever lies and endless secrets. It comes with the idea that vulnerability is weakness and that connection leaves us open to hurt.
It is hard to be inclusive when we are armoured with our egos. It is hard to support each other and lean in to our connections when we are letting the ego lead the way.
Disconnect is the root of racism, homophobia and all the other forms of systemic hatred. It is the idea that I can hate you because you are not like me. It is the lie that we tell and retell over and over in our dominant culture.
Connection is the root of joy. Think of the last time you smiled, laughed, or felt your heart swell with emotion, I’m going to bet that you were not alone.
I’m pretty sure the opposite of connection isn’t actually disconnection, I’m pretty sure the opposite of connection is loneliness.
It is time to lay down the armour of our egos, wade through the quagmire of secrets and lies and really look at each other in the eyes. We’re all more the same than we are different. We all thrive with kindness and wither with hate.
Is the cost worth it to you?