Please join me in a thought experiment. Kindness and consideration seem to go hand-in-hand. We wring our hands and bemoan the current conditions of our culture, the hatred and animosity that seems so prevalent. The coarseness and vindictiveness that seem to be everywhere as people express their angst and frustration. Yet, even in that atmosphere, it is possible to experience acts of kindness. The smile, a hand outstretched, time taken out of a busy schedule to chat, all these exist within the cacophony of frustration and anger.
Kindness is experienced when someone takes the time to notice the need for connection and support in another human being. Kindness comes when one human shares the space of being human with another. The quiet communion of souls, as one human touches another, can make all the difference. Extending kindness tells the receiver that they are valued and important. The recognition of humanity in another is one of the deepest forms of recognition.
Consideration is expressed in manners, the simple act of holding a door open. The recognition of a need in the other and then acting on that perception and sharing the mutual joy in that situation, makes the world brighter. Consideration is a wonderful equalizer, eliminating a situational difference in status with the assurance that our humanity trumps any such illusion.
Kindness is often seen as a spontaneous act between individual people, but what would a kind family look like? What would the daily habits and experience look like? We might expect to see examples of consideration, a sensitivity to one another’s feelings and moods coupled with a caring concern. We would anticipate a skill in gentle inquiry and spontaneous offers of support. We might expect discussions filled with deep listening so everyone’s experience is understood.
Consideration suggests not only the ability to see a need, but to be able to project into the future a bit and act to forestall a situation that might be unpleasant. It provides a bit of ease in trying and difficult situations. Choosing not to do something that might create discomfort in another, or taking an action that might prevent discomfort or pain to another, are both examples of consideration in family situations.
What might a kind organization look like? How would a company provide the experience of being valued to its employees? How might an organization be considerate? Perhaps having a focus on the experience of employees as they interact with the company by creating processes that are client and employee focused, instead of internally focused, might be a good start. Employers could help by trusting employees to take care of their own business AND the company's business at the same time, with a focus on accomplishments instead of time. Consideration runs both ways as employees strive to meet the employer's needs, discovered through discussion and mutual planning. Perhaps a shift from competition to service might help? Perhaps a move from efficiency to effectiveness would provide the context for kindness and consideration to flourish?
Kindness and consideration both speak of a form of reciprocity that is actually found in nature, as each life form seeks to create the conditions in which it can thrive. The inherent interdependence requires a certain consideration of the other. The high energy cost of competition is saved for occasional and extraordinary circumstances. Adaptability and even tolerance are much more economical energetically, and both foster innovation. By minimizing resistance and recognizing value in the other, new opportunities arise that would be missed in the passion of competition.
In a way, both kindness and consideration recognize and facilitate change. By embracing flexibility and acknowledging the distress change causes, consideration and kindness create an experience of grace for the difficult parts of life. Can organizations embrace flexibility? Can organizations wean themselves off the irrational drive for stability and sameness that is a path to death? In nature, stability and lack of change only happen in death. All life change and in fact life might even be defined by its inherent cap, for change. How could it be otherwise? Each life form has a say and as each one adjusts and responds to all the others change in foundational to that engagement with self-expression. Learning to hold reality lightly and with curiosity provides the space for kindness and consideration to happen.
Organizations focus on the process, in the mistake belief that process generates the result, when, in fact, the desired impact should inform the process. Living systems are metabolizing systems, and one of the things they digest is information. Many of our systems are suffering indigestion as the information stored in homelessness, in mental illness, and crime is not being digested. Kindness and consideration offer paths through these mazes of confusion and pain if we allow ourselves to feel our way through.
Kindness and consideration speak of connection, of the ability to feel and share the experience of the other. In that connection the right action arises, without that connection confusion and irritation block that knowing. When we experience kindness and consideration, we are so grateful, and we desire to share that experience with another. When we experience disdain and disregard, then we, in anger, wish to share that too. We create the world we live in, one decision at a time. Those decisions start with our own selves as we internalize our external experience. Kindness and self-care are not “nice to haves,” they are necessary to a thriving life.
Kathryn Alexander MA has been absorbed by trying to understand how we should live. Is there some way to actually determine right from wrong and ensure a moral life - and there is. It does not conflict with any religion, creed or ethnic culture. It clarifies and strengthens them all, and at the same time can be independent of them, as it stands on its own. Live in connection with the Earth.