Being kind is a choice, and it says much about people
whether they choose to be cruel or to be kind. Choose to be kind.
I was going to post a different blog today – I’ve decided to post only once a month due to writing and family commitments – but today’s subject is too important to miss, especially after the weekend’s events.
Friday brought us Valentine’s Day, an annual celebration of love, compounded by a recoupling in the evening’s episode of Love Island, the TV show offering young singles a chance to find love. Love was in the air, and both love and compassion should be in the air every day, not just Valentine’s. I mention the day and the show because the very next day Caroline Flack would take her own life. Caroline was very much weaved into the tenets of Love Island, being the former host and a romantic herself, and was described as someone who loved being in love.
Her death is complicated and none of us can know the reasoning behind her decision, and the discussion surrounding her loss is made more complex by an impending trial for domestic abuse. None of us are here to debate her wrongs or failings, we all have those, and not one of us is in a position to throw stones. But no one can fail to see the relevance of both tabloid and social media as a likely contributory factor in her loss.
The weeks following her arrest offered an onslaught of media attention and endless stories in the tabloids. I heard a quote that over four hundred stories about her appeared within four weeks or so, not to mention the amount of tweets, opinions, and comment they gave life to. How could any one of us deal with kind of scrutiny and vilification? I certainly couldn’t.
I suffer from severe anxiety, depression, and a host of other issues, and not even a hundredth of what she was laid bare to would have left me okay. One single negative tweet can have me contemplating my place in this world, and I understand that, so I am careful what I say online. So, if someone like me who has attempted suicide, regularly self-harm, and live with constant anxiety can’t deal with that kind of attention, why do we think celebrities, personalities, and even royals are stronger? Celebrities have emotional and mental health conditions, they have lives as complicated as ours, they struggle, and they try to live the best they can. They have faults and flaws just like we do, but when they make a mistake they do it inside the glare of the spectator.
Imagine making your mistakes in the limelight and scrutiny of the public, and being tried and convicted by uninformed armchair judges.
It’s easy to sit anonymously behind a screen and damn everyone we disagree with. We’ve seen it with Brexit, Trump, Johnson, Meghan and Harry, even coronavirus, and much more, but it’s not healthy when debate is uninformed or judgemental. We’ve seen a big move to fact check information online, especially when politics is involved. How often do we check our facts before posting our opinion, or sharing that meme that’s doing the rounds? We should. We must.
And this leads to the bigger issues. Our media is very much controlled by a few select outlets: tabloids and big media personalities, and I’d currently consider government too. When our media is owned by huge corporations including the media mogul Rupert Murdoch we often only hear the things they want us to hear. Personalities, like Piers Morgan, Katie Hopkins etc, also tend to gain traction with loud and widespread controversial voices. These voices have a responsibility to be just and respectful, and not incite hate or bullying.
Journalism does need to report what’s happening, but what happens when those reports become judgemental, mean-spirited, bullying, and downright persecution? Both bullying and sensationalising within the media has become endemic.
We are becoming a nation, a world, enslaved to bad news. We need more good news, we need more love, more kindness, and more good things all round. We need to be careful with what we say, not because we’re walking on ice around people not to offend, but because we are good-hearted genuine people who don’t want to hurt those around us.
Life is hard and we often have no idea what truly goes on in the lives of our friends let alone people outside of our circles. We’re all fighting battles no one can see.
It’s important we are there for each other, and that spreads further than just our own back yard. If we interact globally, our circles widen and our influence grows. We need to reassess our ethics and priorities. Our words can either harm or comfort, it’s up to us which we choose. We can help others reach their potential, help them to succeed, and support those who need it. We can work together, and kindness and compassion are paramount to achieving that.
Kindness is a base response, it’s automatic, it’s a default we should all have.
Gottman, a german researcher who worked with couples at The Gottman Institute, declared that: Contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart, and Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together.
Let’s take contempt, hate, dislike, animosity, disrespect, all those things that contribute to bullying, away and replace them with kindness, love, compassion, empathy, validity and everything that will cement a community together in this wild, difficult, uncertain thing called life and become a stronger more supportive society.
Kindness isn’t hard, it’s a natural setting that all children have until prejudices and differences become apparent. Let’s reclaim it in our social media environment and in our personal lives until it becomes our default.
Kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch.
It is anything that lifts another person.
(C. Neil Strait)
In a world where you can be anything, be kind.