On Kindness as a Priority

After reading this article about whether or not parents are raising their children to be nice, I had to take a moment to reflect. Did my parents emphasize achievements more than being kind? My first reaction is to say no. But when I really think about an actual example… My parents would certainly be more proud of an A on a test than if I said I stopped studying to talk to a friend who needed emotional support. I think. I’m not sure, actually. I’m sure they would be proud of me either way, but just a bit more excited about that A.

So now, I’m a young adult who is responsible for her own actions. I certainly prioritize my future goals and dreams and accomplishments over taking time out to volunteer. I literally pencil family and and friends into my schedule (where time is already divvied out for school), and rarely do something completely spontaneous. To be very honest, I would be very grumpy to have to wake up at 3 in the morning to let in a roommate who locked her keys in her car, or heaven forbid, asked me to come pick her up from somewhere.

I’m not trying to say that I think I’m the most unkind, because I do take time to talk to all my friends no matter how much I just want to retreat into my room. I try to honor all my promises, and am working on becoming better at saying “no” when I know I don’t want to or can’t do something. And no matter how grumpy I would be to wake up in the middle of the night, I would do it. But maybe only for someone I truly cared about, someone who I know would return the favor in a heartbeat.

In other words, I’m kind when it’s convenient, and then put a little more effort into being nice to my friends and family.

But…You know, as I envision myself growing older, I want people to think I am a kind person. Not only do I want them to think that, but I actually want to be kind, to be happy to go out of my way for a stranger, to brighten up someone’s day with nice words, to make time for those who are important to me. I don’t want to be stingy with my money, time, brain power, or anything else. I want it to be a habit and a priority to think of others.

How to start? I will be more conscious of keeping my door open to roomies to say a casual hi when I am not on the brink of a test day. I can understand my anxiety right before a test, but it’ll be good to take a break from notes and stuff to chat for a few minutes. And I’m sure they will all understand when I shoo them out the door (politely) after 10 minutes or so.
I’d also like to hone my listening skills, to really focus on what someone is saying to me. I want to remember what is important to him/her.
Definitely volunteering is a major next step. It’s so easy for me to be stingy with time, especially because I love being in my room alone just thinking about stuff.

I think an important point for me is to better manage my time. I’m usually most unkind when I’m stressed out, and I get stressed out before deadlines, due dates, test days, etc. In order to manage that stress, I need to make it a priority to 1) realize it’s not the end of the world if I do poorly, because remember how those goals are not priority #1? They are priorities somewhere near the top of the list though, so I do want to make sure that 2) I use my time wisely in order to make it easy to be kind. I’ll set up my environment for success!

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