What is kindness? describes it as a kind act or favor.

My definition of kindness has changed many times over the years. All my life I was taught to turn the other cheek, love your neighbor as yourself, don’t judge and all the other things the good book tells us to do.

My issue with all of these things is that I don’t think I ever understood any of them. I come from a long line of passive people. We have a few passive-aggressive people in my family, but for the most part we are all passive. That makes us seem super nice to everyone. Being super nice is a blessing and a curse, but it is not exactly being kind in the way that I have come to understand kindness now.

When I was taught turn the other cheek, I believed it to mean for me to just let people hurt me, because it didn’t matter what others say anyway. However, it did matter what other people said to me. I never let it effect the way I live my life too much, but it did hurt a whole lot.

When I was taught to love my neighbor as myself, I thought that meant I always needed to put others ahead of myself. When I was taught not to judge others, I thought that meant I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion about things other people were doing.

As I have begun and continued deep internal work, I believe I interpreted all of those things wrong or maybe I was just more naive at a younger age. Now I believe turning the other cheek means that people may hurt you, but you shake it off and love them anyway. It doesn’t mean you have to allow anyone to walk all over you, but you also don’t have to choose to take what they say or do personally. 95% of the time, when someone is not kind to you, it’s because they are hurt or broken inside, so brush it off and go on- turn the other cheek.

Now about loving your neighbor as yourself. Does that mean what I thought it did? Should you forsake your needs because others need too. Should you drain all your energy, time, or money because your neighbor needs it? No, because it says love as you love yourself. This means except the fact that the other person you are dealing with is in fact another human being- flaws and all. So you love them, you pour in to them your love simply because they are human. You don’t sacrifice yourself or become a martyr for them, you love them and yourself.

Last but not least, we come to judging. Don’t judge others. There are so many ways that can be interpreted. I have always thought if I had an opinion, positive or negative about someone, it meant I was judging them. That led to years of me feeling terrible anytime I had an opinion and led me to say and do things I felt uncomfortable doing or being around because I didn’t want to be “judging” someone. That is a very stressful way to live life. I have come to understand I can have an opinion about a persons behavior and not be judging them. Because an opinion is just that, it’s an opinion about behavior. My job is not to like everything about every single person, that is not what I have been commanded to do. My job is to love not to like. My God commanded me to love others regardless of the opinion I may have about them. To me that now means, if you are a kind person, a mean person, an honest person, a dishonest person, a homosexual person, a straight person, someone with an addiction problem, an atheist, a rebel, a conformist, a jerk or an angel, my only job on this earth is to love you because you are a human. I do not have to like you, I do not have to like your actions, words, friends, job choice or anything else about you, but I do have to love you.

So now, at this time in my life, I realize to practice kindness, I must first be kind to myself. I must always view the person in front of me as a worthy human and I must love first and then help when I can. Practicing kindness doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice myself for others mentally, spiritually or physically. It does mean I have to think about what I say and how it effects the other person, think about how I act and if that is a reflection of love or something I felt obligated to do. It means I must try every single day to acknowledge my thoughts about other people and decide to love them no matter what I may believe to be true or untrue.

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