Kindness is something we always seem to try and boost or support. T-shirts and journals that say "Be Kind" on them fill up public schools and talk show hosts and kids television shows hope to promote kindness through their messages. It's something we discuss often, but is it something that we actually do. I know this seems cliche and I know it's a discussion that's been beaten into the ground, but I think that many of us only do perform one half of the act of kindness. I think that we live in a world where kindness is promoted and yet we passively watch as unkindness happens more often than not. I'm here to discuss the whole act of being kind.
Many people around me are kind people. They are kind to those around me and genuinely care about others. I recognize I am in a unique community as my college is a small, Christian liberal arts institution that attracts a very specific type of person. However, there is something I do notice among even the most sincere and kindest of these people, very few are willing to stand up to unkindness. Some people want to be liked by everyone, or simply are passive, thinking that passivity is somehow attached to kindness. It's not. Kindness also means removing unkindness. It means not only being kind yourself, but standing up to those who are unkind. Anyone who has been a victim of bullying or some sort of unfair treatment doesn't remember the passive bystander as being kind, even if that person never did anything to them or even didn't agree with it. They do remember the person who stood up for them. Which person do you want to be?
I have consistently discussed the bystander in another article I wrote that you can find here. However, I think that the bystander is more than just an issue in social justice or political movements. It's something that kids learn early on and changes their character. You cannot be a bystander in issues of kindness and consider yourself to have that trait. To be kind is to be a person who courageously says no. You have to be a person that shows gentleness and compassion to everyone, and sometimes that means calling them out on their unkindness. It's not just as simple as being generally thought of as nice enough, it's an action and a practice and I think that we need to start doing it.