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Why is it so hard to be kind? Part I: Incompetence

I've said before that being nice is easy. Being kind is harder.

But sometimes even when we see someone needs something and it would be "kind" to jump in and help, we don't. In that instance you may be perceived as being "unkind" because you did not help. But...just maybe there are reasons why we don't all just jump right in and help.

One reason: We feel we don't have what it takes to help. We feel incompetent to help at that moment. I know that if I don't know how to do something, then I'll tend to avoid doing that. I might not feel very competent (at that moment in time) at doing what it takes to help that person. I'm not being mean or uncaring. I don't mean to be "unkind." I just don't know what to do. Maybe I don't want to impose or make a promise I can't keep.

In my profession of taking care of people, I can't tell you how many times I've felt like this. I am a person of action. I'm used to fixing things, fixing problems. When I can't, I don't know what to do. At times it's pushed me to not act when maybe I could have tried.

Like many others I've had to learn that "a fix" isn't always what is needed. I've learned that being present and offering "to be with" rather than "to fix" can be the best medicine.

Here's a story we heard along these lines:

I recently had arranged to meet with an elderly friend for a walk. She uses a motorized scooter. Just before we were due to meet the heavens opened into a huge thunderstorm. She wasn't answering her phone...and eventually found her bedraggled, wet, shocked, and shaking. She had thought she would be killed by lightening.

I took her to a cafe where she proceeded to bark orders at the staff, get chilled and shake, then sob. A whole story emerged of stress and difficulty meeting an academic deadline she had plus challenges with daily tasks of living. Slowly she calmed and I offered to give her an hour of my time each day for the next week. She wept with relief. All she really needed was the first hour on the first day. The kindness, she said, was in the fact that she no longer felt alone.

It's the being with, the bearing witness, the offering of listening, and the "not fixing" that can leave one feeling kindness is happening. Even when feeling incompetent, this is something I've learned I can competently offer.

Keep calm and be kind


Lorraine & Vivian

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