Using Kindness to Combat Cruelty
By: Daralyse Lyons
If I were to ask you to think about a bullying incident in your life, you’d surely think of something. Perhaps, you were a victim, a perpetrator, or a spectator. As difficult as it might be to acknowledge, whenever human beings relate to one another, power dynamics can come into play.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and I thought that, rather than focusing on bullying itself, I would write about tangible ways in which we can practice its antithesis.
To quote the long-deceased Latin writer, Pubilius Syrus, “You can accomplish by kindness what you cannot by force.”
Five Ways to Combat Cruelty with Kindness:
Smiling is one of the kindest things you can do, not only for those around you, but for yourself as well. Studies show that, when one person smiles at another, they’re issuing an almost irresistible invitation. The other person can’t help but smile back. And each time we “turn our frowns upside-down,” (as my third grade elementary school teacher used to say), our body releases endorphins, which reduce stress.
Pay someone a compliment. (But only if you mean it).
In giving someone a compliment, you are expressing how much you value them, which can positively impact their self-esteem and even strengthen your relationship. But don’t say anything you don’t genuinely mean. And steer away from superficial accolades. Saying something such as “You look great. You lost weight” can convey the unintended message that they didn’t look great before. Instead, focus on attributes and actions. For example, “I appreciate how much you value health” or “Your energy is inspiring.”
Offer unsolicited, no-strings-attached, support.
You can make a positive impact simply by calling a friend with young children and volunteering to babysit, mowing your neighbor’s lawn, or bringing a casserole to a family member’s house without waiting for a relative to die. You might even consider doing something nice for a stranger. Not too long ago, I paid for the person behind me in line at Starbucks. For the price of a tall Macchiato, I made another person’s day. And her gratitude at my simple gesture made mine in return.
Sympathy is feeling for another person. Empathy is feeling with another person. This is a critical distinction. Each time you relate to someone else as an equal, you let them know they’re not alone.
Give (and receive) a hug.
Like smiles, hugs are almost impossible not to reciprocate. Sure, you could wrap your arms around another only to have them refuse to return the gesture, but it’s unlikely. Try it. You’ll find that a return hug is almost reflexive. Because of that, every time you give a hug, you simultaneously get a hug. And the benefits of hugging, which are well-documented, include strengthening the immune system, providing us with a feeling of belonging, and teaching us how to give and receive love.
For information, or to get involved in local anti-bullying initiatives, check out the Stop Bullying Now Foundation.
About the author:
When Daralyse Lyons isn’t doing splits or jumping out of airplanes, this former yoga teacher and eternal adrenaline junkie can be found with pen in hand furiously scribbling her latest novel. To date, she has written more than two dozen full-length books, a handful of short stories and countless articles. A member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), the host of a successful podcast, an actress, a storyteller, and a summa cum laude graduate of NYU, Daralyse brings intelligence and enthusiasm to all her endeavors.
To find out more, or to connect with her, head over to www.daralyselyons.com.