I’ve seldom been called mean and called kind even less. Kindness doesn’t come naturally to me. We all know those beautiful souls who empathize first, ask questions later. I tend to do the exact opposite -imparting kindness only when I feel the person is deserving. “That’s not really kindness John.” Agreed. So what is? Goodwill maybe. Being sensitive? Generosity? I don’t know, petting a cat? All I know is I really need to up my kindness game.
I’ve had a legalistic relationship with kindness, ever since I can remember. It’s my parent’s fault. Sorry, that was unkind. And untrue. I mean it’s God’s fault. I was raised super religious. While I seldom wore a cape, I wasn’t clothed in kindness either. I was taught to obey first and don’t ask why later. I learned to play the kindness game and got God points every time I did a good deed. Later, when I turned Pro and became a Youth Pastor -I made a career out of loving-kindness teaching others how to do kindness too. I taught teens to love and accept everyone. I taught their parents to give money to the poor. I taught my kids to give their toys to their friends. I taught people overseas to give their hearts to Jesus. Come to think of it, I was a kindness machine, yet, was seldom called kind.
Kindness is not an act. I’ve done kind things my entire life and still been an asshole. It’s also not a feeling. Moodiness has prevented more kindness than the devil himself. It could be a belief. It’s probably a mindset. Most likely a decision. As an ambitious Type A, self-focused person, kindness doesn’t come naturally to me. How could it? I’ve always been kind because I’ve had to be. Even when I left Christianity I was kind because I had to start over. Meet new people. Get shit done. Make money. As an entrepreneur, kindness is key. People don’t want to spend money with an asshole.
Angie is always trying to get me to notice Benny. “Look at him, he’s so smart. Awww hon, just look. He’s sweet. He loves you, you know.” Sometimes I oblige as I love my wife but just between you and me I think Benny is a demon sent to annoy the hell out of me (which I guess makes the joke on the demon). But seriously, what kind of sentient being maintains eye contact while slowly pushing your glass of water off the nightstand? Who demands cuddles then violently scratches you when they’ve had enough? Who bangs on your door at 3am because they’re bored and lonely?? Who runs outside as your bringing in groceries then immediately cries at the door to be let in? Who pees in the guest room because the door was left open? Who hides in your room at night so you’re forced to look for him – of course, I don’t let him sleep in my room, he’d probably try and smother me in my sleep or piss on my pajamas. Who demands so much yet gives so little? “Oh John stop it, he’s just a cat, you’re acting like he’s a person or something.” I wish he was a person. At least then I could punish him when he acted like an asshole. Gulp.
I think I’ve discovered the problem here. As a kindness machine, I’ve been a tool in the hands of many operators. My Parents. God. Bosses. Clients. Angie. My kids. My friends. You. Them. I’ve been kind because others have needed me to be kind and so as a Son, Preacher, Business Owner, Husband, Father, Friend, and Role Model, I’ve allowed myself to be used for good. The result is, I’ve equated kindness with responsibility and obligation and acted accordingly. No wonder I’ve remained an asshole.
Kindness isn’t an act or a responsibility. It isn’t the “right thing to do.” It is without strings or expectations. It is a gift freely given from one sentient being to another not because the giver should do it or because the receiver deserves it but because the gift itself creates joy. In short, kindness pets the cat.