“Hi Lorraine,” the email began. “[I am] continuing to enjoy the Eagle, including your thoughtful editorials. It must be hard to come up with fresh topics week after week, but you seem to manage well!”
The author of this email had no clue how his kinds words truly made my day, and quite literally turned it completely around to one of joy in a matter of seconds. You see, this email entered my mailbox immediately following three other emails where the support and kind words were – well, um, how should I put this --- not present. It’s from that experience I became more aware how words have a great impact on others. Instead of provoking pain, words can be used to fan the flame of kindness.
Although freedictionary.com describes fanning the flame as; “To do or say something to make an argument, problem, or bad situation worse”, I would add that one can take an argument, problem or bad situation and dowse it with reflection and courtesy, making circumstances better.
I remember my mom telling me when I was a young child, “things just aren’t like the used to be in the good ol’ days,”. I may be channeling her right now, but it does seem things have changed recently in our approach to one another. Like the good ol’ days of my youth, respectful consideration was incorporated when communicating with others. Not that it was all peaches and cream, as life is filled with human error, but “telling it like it is” was reserved for those who hadn’t completed a thorough inquiry before expressing an opinion. Now, telling it like it is without reflection has become synonymous with courage and strength. But according to an article written by Dr. Karyn Hall, the director of Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston, Texas, the exact opposite is true.
Dr. Hall writes in the online magazine, Psychology Today, “While kindness has a connotation of meaning someone is naive or weak, that is not the case. Being kind often requires courage and strength. Kindness is an interpersonal skill.”
This, of course, doesn’t mean that we should refrain from telling the truth as we view it, but it can be done in a courteous manner that abstains from hurtful discourse.
“Kindness is also about telling the truth in a gentle way when doing so is helpful to the other person,” wrote Dr. Hall. “Receiving accurate feedback in a loving and caring way is an important part of a trusted relationship. The courage to give and receive truthful feedback is a key component of growth and flexible thinking. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201712/the-importance-kindness
I do try my best to practice what I write, but in all honesty, I fail from time to time. In fact, I think my mother has reached down from the heavens and popped me on the mouth more than once – because, you know, they did that in the good ol’ days.
The truth is, my mother was not much of a corporal disciplinarian. She instead chose to fan the flames of kindness when she spoke to others – as well as to me. I’m trying to walk more in her footsteps. And, I wonder, if we all tried kindness more often, how many bad days could be turned around in a matter of seconds to one of joy.