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Inertia - Nº132
It is better to be kind than to be liked
“We’re all just walking each other home.”
— Ram Dass
The art of living well is to spend the days more in touch with your “emotional truths”, so they are called. What does this mean? Well, it’s knowing the answers to intimate questions about yourself. Understanding why certain social settings make you anxious, why you hesitate to lower your drawbridge and let a potential love get to know you better, or why you feel angry when you argue with your friends about humble subjects.
Our emotions are there to be protected. They are our signals, our mind’s toolkit. They could improve our circumstances beyond what we could think—or worsen the situation entirely. In essence, they help us navigate our complex world.
Each of your emotions is like a quality that has the purpose of helping you make sense of things. Fear protects you from what you feel puts your life or integrity at risk, anger enforces your boundaries, sadness slows you down, and joy speeds you up.
Kindness? This one is special. It teaches you how and when to listen to your heart. We all desire to be considered “a kind person”, but most people confuse this with being “a nice person”. The two words often get used and abused, and it may seem like mere semantics for some. But they are not alike.
I’ve always struggled with it, but being nice is overrated and not generally what we want to be. It is a bearish trait. People create hell for themselves to pave the way for others in the name of having good intentions. But being nice is a disguise for our selfish need to be liked, where we don’t ask for what we need, we don’t give crucial feedback when we need to, and we enable the dysfunctions of others by overcompensating for them. We avoid saying important things because we fear offending others and being disliked—but all it does is tear away our voices and lead us to be inauthentic.
“Nice” may be polite and pleasant but superficial and selfish. “Kind” is compassionate and empathetic and goes beyond polite behaviour. Niceness follows a trained mindset, acting in your own best interest. Kindness is acting in another person’s best interest, even when it upsets them.
Donna Cameron spent six years researching and writing about kindness. She based her work on the premise that nice and kind are worlds apart, and we should always strive to be kind. You can do the safe, polite thing and take the easy and expected route. You can be nice without much effort or taking any risk, tolerating someone with a fake smile. Or you can be willing to risk that your act of kindness may be rejected or misunderstood, that you may call unwanted attention to yourself and appear awkward or clumsy—but do it anyway.
To be kind is to withhold judgment and genuinely care about what someone else needs. Donna found that kindness is more like a verb. You can sum it up with the phrase: “Extend yourself”. Kindness takes more courage and strength than anything else. Being nice is staying seated and silent like everyone else, whereas kindness is having the courage to stand up. You see people for who they are and treat them well regardless of what people say. You’re not trying to show how good of a person you are; you’re not trying to hide your internal thoughts or feelings during an interaction. Instead, you’re highlighting your ability to stand up for yourself and maintain a good sense of boundaries. It feels completely different to being nice.
So, in future, start with kindness, and let it be the act that accompanies or replaces your words.