“Politeness is often fear.Kindness is always courage.”~ Matt Haig
Amazing how many individuals who are ‘being polite’ see themselves as being ‘kind.’ Politeness is a form of “manners.” Kindness is a value, or virtue if you will. Both are taught and fostered, social norms being what they are ~ however, I also believe acts of Kindness are inherent within the human. (Within many other-animal species too!)
A mindful male-friend shared with me a comment his mindful mom made to him not too long ago. Paraphrased, she shared the now-wisdom of wishing she had taught him more as a child to be kind, not ‘nice.’ Wow! What awareness and insight on her part. Children are often taught not to make waves, to let the odoriferous neighbor give a hug, to allow the relative to pinch the cheek, to say ‘yes’ when a request is made to get/be/do something that the kid doesn’t want to do/get/be. Don’t want to walk or play with their ankle-biting dog? Don’t want to eat the gross-tasting cookie? Shhhh. Be polite. Don’t talk back. Remember, Children are seen and not heard.
Manners are one thing. I really don’t want to see someone’s food being chewed. [Hey – see-food! Get it?! Yes, I remember that one, too.] I don’t want to smell their farts, or hear their belches. Let’s not even go-there with nose picking. Ha! All controllable behaviors. And … huh ~ it’s interesting how so many of the ‘manners’ issues are related to types of bodily functions! Yet have you also noticed that the involuntary reflex of sneezing or a stomach gurgle is followed by an apology?!! Why is that? Blatantly doing behaviors that are controllable, yet apologizing for what one cannot ‘control.’ Weird set of rules! Yet I digress.
Teaching hypocrisy under the banner of ‘politeness’ is another thing. Being ‘polite’ at all costs breeds decades of internal misery. Headaches, high blood pressure, diverticulitis, bowel problems, heart palpitations. Wowzer ~ stuffing the emotions will show up somewhere. And yes, being inundated with messages to the need for politeness ~ since kidhood ~ has folks entering or remaining in careers (or simply jobs) that they detest, not asserting themselves for recognition or raises, staying in abusive relationships (professional or personal), abdicating their own safety by being a passenger with a driver who is drunk, allowing a bully (no matter the age or environment/location) to … well … bully. All in the name of not making waves, not talking-back, being seen and not heard. Being Polite. …”often based in fear.”
Decades ago, I was taught that there were two primary emotional umbrellas under which all feelings were collected. One was fear. The other was love. Me being me, I listed any emotion I could conceivable think of ~ and by jove ~ they all fit in one of these two columns. Another ‘huh.’ I did the same with the values and/or virtues I was taught. That was a 50-50 gambit. Alot of ’em were really about ‘politeness,’ yet a goodly number actually were about ‘kindness’: empathy, caring, lending a helping hand for-fun-and-for-free (no strings attached), asking (not telling), sharing (not martyrdom). Lots of ‘good stuff’ there. Kindness actually feels good too, and scientifically has positive repercussions within the body physical. Double and triple bonus!
There is a bumper sticker out there encouraging others to Practice Random Acts of Kindness. If one is not in tune with their internal kindness barometer, this message is an important re-Minder. “Hey ~ wake up! SEE the world around you. Live Consciously. Be involved.” To do this, especially initially, is an act of courage. It flies in the face of worrying about OPOs. It may buck the previously-held beliefs and practices of needing to be polite-at-all-costs. It means being involved in at micro-level. Mano y mano. It means sharing a piece of you, vulnerably. (Yes, even allowing the car waiting-to-turn to move out in front of your car, is a vulnerable act. There’s the horn-honking dude or dudette behind … there’s the possible lack of thanks from the turnee … there’s the potential of being 17seconds later down the road. And yet, you do it. Good on you!! A simple act of kindness.)
There are countless … and I mean countless… acts of kindness to perpetrate on and in this world. And … a truism: a spontaneous, kind act to one person (or creature or place or thing) can create reverberations as “they” have a bit of ease in-the-moment and it changes their perspective even just in-the-moment, which effects the next moment … and the next …and the next. Wow! What courage !!! Go for it !