How kindness and social consciousness really need to go hand-in-hand
These days, it can often feel like the goodness in the world is being snuffed out by shady politics, social intolerance, and daily life struggles. If you are someone who wants to be engaged in the world around you, it is inevitable that you will experience triggering moments. While there are plenty of tips on how to find balance between staying “woke” and practicing self-care, what is often missing from the conversation is the many ways in which kindness and consciousness go hand-in-hand. To be socially aware without practicing kindness is a bit of a paradox, and to be kind without awareness of where and how need exists in the world means being unfocused with your efforts.
We now live in a culture that is defined by opinion-sharing, digital debates, and dealing with internet trolls. The advent of digital activism and the fact there is no shortage in injustices to be outraged about means that more and more people feel a personal responsibility to speak up about causes that are important to them. And that’s awesome. The key is to make kindness a part of your consciousness in way that doesn’t silence you or leave room for intolerance.
The fact is, kindness brings about understanding.
It is one thing to speak out against blatant displays of anything involving the dehumanization of marginalized groups or the endangering human rights. Those instances typically go beyond general ignorance and involve the deliberate choice to hold on to toxic views, so in a way, the more egregious the crime, the easier it is to call out and speak against. But in instances of friends or family members saying or doing questionable or outright problematic things, it can be so much harder to say something. Before you gear up to take them down with all of your socially just might, try to implement kindness in your approach. This means that before you veto a viewpoint, ask questions, try to understand where someone is coming from and why.
And no, it doesn’t mean that you consider an objectively offensive or damaging mindset or opinion to be valid and worth considering — it does mean that if you want to have a constructive inroad to changing someone’s mind, you need to make them feel heard and respected or they’ll shut you out before you even begin.
That’s because kindness brings about empathy.
Lack of empathy may be one of the biggest voids to fill in our current social justice culture. All out keyboard wars and oppression olympics can make many of us forget that we aren’t alone in our struggles. In turn, by using kindness to cultivate empathy, you can have more productive, healthier dialogue about social issues because instead of competition, what results is compassion and the reminder that people are often fighting their own silent battles.
Kindness is a two-way street.
Awareness, both of self and of others, should involve reciprocal kindness. While giving kindness doesn’t always mean reciprocation, when we give it, we at least boost our chances of getting it back. And learning to practice kindness is just as important as learning to accept it. Can you really be a conscious person without knowing how to both offer and accept kindness? To be fully conscious in this world means to be receptive, and kindness is as a good place to start as any. It helps us to elevate beyond just saying that we are dedicated to a cause or dedicated to being informed, and forces us to practice what we preach by making sure that we extend that dedication to the people and small moments in our lives.
Kindness reminds us that we can have the most impact in those small moments.
The goal of social consciousness is often to educate. While you may not be able to save the internet trolls (don’t go down that dark and fruitless path), you can educate the people in your own life, and the most effective way to do that is not through finger-wagging and lectures, but through kindness. What impact do you have in the lives of the people you care about? Does it really matter what your views are, if those close to you can’t say that you have a good heart? I mean, yes, it does matter who you are more than what people think of you, but if you want to reach them, you need to reach out to them. Now may be the perfect time to take note of the areas in your life that can be made better by being more kind, and in doing so, you might find that your consciousness gets an upgrade.