In this third feature of Choosing Kindness, I thought I would borrow the words of Jed Jenkins who shares from personal experience of what it means for people to show kindness in their own way to others:
“I am not terribly empathetic. I mean, I don’t feel other people’s pain. And often I don’t even feel their energy or mood. I just bust into the room and start talking about some new Netflix documentary or how beautiful LA is after the rain.
[My friend Ruthie Lindsey] is a human energy sponge. She feels the room. She walks in and knows exactly who has had a bad day, who just fought with their girlfriend, and who feels inadequate.
We were talking about this and I got insecure about my dark robotic heart and she said ‘but it can be a good thing Jed. Sometimes when people feel crummy, they don’t want to dwell on it. They don’t want to be treated like fragile glass. They want to feel normal, to be pulled out of their darkness. You treat everyone the same. Your energy is a trusted constant. Like every day is a new chance to be amazed. That helps people.’
In other words, she was saying ‘I do what I do, and it can help. You do what you do, and it can help. Some days we need a comforter. Some days we need perspective. Some days we need to stop staring in the mirror asking why, and go outside and be amazed at the world. Some days we need a kick in the ass.’
In Christianity, there’s an idea called The Body of Christ. Some of us are hands, others feet. Some ears and some mouths. And if a foot sat around wishing it were the mouth, the body would never move. Every part has a function, and until it knows its place in the wholeness, the body is incomplete.
We are parts of the big body of the world. You have a role. That weirdness in you is the thing someone needs.”
I love this excerpt. It reminds me of how I often focus on the things I myself am lacking, especially when it comes to my own personality and character. In a society of comparisons, it’s all too easy to glance around us and see other people with the ideal “traits” that you so desire and think would make up the best version of you. Unfortunately as a result of wishing for better things, we spend an excessive amount of time dwelling on our insecurities. The things about ourselves that we wish weren’t like as they are. Even worse, these things often tend to be core parts of who we are that are difficult to change.
When it comes to showing kindness and compassion to others, this core thing seems to always get in the way, and we hate that core part of ourselves because of it. However, this “core thing” may not be so bad. For Jed, his core thing is what he feels is his lack of empathy, as he calls it – his “dark robotic heart”. Now it makes sense to look down on that part of your character, the part that seems to not be able to pick up on other people’s emotions so well and stops you from loving others to the fullest. I mean, isn’t empathy a crucial component to being kind and loving? Jed could go on each day wishing that this wasn’t a part of him and despising it, but that would be denying a trait unique to him.
And truly, just as this excerpt mentions, this potentially despisable trait can actually be used for good, uniquely through Jed. Because of his so-called lack of empathy, he may not be able to adjust his attitude specific to each person he meets, but the fact that his demeanor is a constant to whoever is around him is often exactly what people need some days. Especially if someone’s going through a hard time, they just want to be treated like a normal person instead of like fragile glass. And this is exactly what Jed can provide through his own distinct self.
For me, an insecurity of mine is my introversion. This core part of myself often stops me from reaching out to the people in my life, seeing how they’re doing, and extending the love I want to show them. I remember getting so frustrated with this part of myself and wishing I could just be more extroverted, more able to make everyone in the room feel comfortable, to easily be a friendly face. However, I’ve come to realize that this fatal flaw of mine, this hated weakness, is a unique part of who I am and has led me to show kindness to others in my own distinct way. Because extroversion and endless talking don’t come first to me, I find that my strengths lie more in being a listener and providing a quieter support.
Each of us are made up with a distinctive combination of strengths and weaknesses, and it is with this unique dynamic that we are able to live out the individual lives we were exactly meant to have and fill certain roles that only our own personality and character can fill. Just like how hands vary from legs and eyes and ears, our intricate personalities and character don’t look anything like the other person next to us -we’re each our own unique self with our own place in the world, each serving very different functions in this thing called life. If we lose just one of these components about ourselves, we can’t serve others in kindness and love to the full potential and capacity that each of us are capable of.
And it is with this that we should come to see that we don’t live our life despite our weaknesses, but through it. We shouldn’t despise these weaknesses and try to deny them, but instead come to the realization that every part of who we are -especially the ugliest, deepest-rooted parts -shape us into the people we currently are, and allow us to show love and kindness in our own way that no one else in the world can.