I babble incessantly, both publicly and privately, about how kindness can change Brantford BY good INTO good. Sometimes when people hear the message that falls of my mouth, like I’m compulsively pulling my own Chatty Cathy string, they often prematurely swoon without much critical-analysis or introspection. Other times folks doubt seriously that a tiny token from a stranger has legitimate post-modern transformational powers.
One question that is important to answer is the issue of what kindness ACTUALLY is. Is it something you DO or something that you ARE? Let’s hit the kindness Home Button and dissect what this elusive word means. Believe it or not, it’s a somewhat tricky word to get to the bottom of. The most common definition is:
Kindness = “Showing benevolence”
Bah… a big word. I hate it when you go digging and find a big word. Let’s go further. What does benevolence mean?
Benevolence = “The disposition to do good”
Drat. Onward ho. So what does disposition mean?
Disposition = “The predominant tendency of one’s spirits; natural mental and emotional outlook or mood”
Quite a rabbit trail to figure out a term we all know but struggle to understand. Let’s go back up the word-ladder and piece the puzzle together.
Your disposition is more or less the state of your spirit. The way you ARE on the inside. It’s your life’s default setting. This is a key to understanding how everyday kindness can be sustained and transformational. The truth is that if we’re honest, our disposition is not always the greatest. DOING an act of kindness here and there is not that difficult, but dealing with the deeper issues that go into creating one’s disposition is a tougher nut. There we’ll find a concoction of our issues that will either propel us towards authenticity and sustenance, or impede us from pursuing a life fuelled by OTHERS instead of ourselves. Now we’re peeling back some onion layers Shrek.
The good news is that we CAN control our disposition. We need to recognize what it is and allow it to be transformed. As the book of Romans says, “renewing of your mind” to be in a GOOD place. It takes some work sometimes. You have to choose to begin acting how you wish you acted and get ready to feel a dispositional change.
That brings us back to benevolence. Changing our disposition, so that our motivational default setting is on GOOD, enables us to be genuinely benevolent. Disposition either opens or closes the Benevolence-gate. Kindness however, real kindness, is in the DOING.
Dave’s Kindness Equation: Kindness is an act of goodness out of a heart motivated by goodness.
The answer to the question of “Is kindness something you ‘Do’ or something that you ‘Are” is that’s it’s something you do BASED on what you are. Take note that both our disposition AND the acting on it BOTH require discipline and intention. The 18th Century Philosopher Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” But how does this equation change a city? A nation? The world?
Drew Dudley of Nuance Leadership Development Services, and former Leadership Development Coordinator at the University of Toronto, believes leadership is not a characteristic reserved for the extraordinary. He also believes that kindness plays a role in freeing others onto an end of macro-transformation. He said recently that it’s almost frightening to some when they come to realize the degree of impact that we can have on people. He believes that if we make leadership about changing the world, we give ourselves an excuse not to expect it every day from ourselves. How can one act of kindness today change the world? Dudley says:
“There is no world. There’s only 6 billion understandings of it. If you change one person’s understanding of how powerful an agent of change they can be… you’ve changed the whole thing”
We’ve habitually lulled ourselves into believing that answers to our city’s large issues only come through political grappling and crippling amounts of resource used on second-best solutions. You and I hold the optimal plan for the transformation mankind deeply desires in our own two hands… if we’re willing to open them.