We should all be kind, nice and generous. Not much debate around that.
But how about “sharing” your act of kindness with others? Social media makes it incredibly easy to tell the whole world about how nice you are but does that mean you should do it? Should we go about telling our neighbors how we helped a stranger at the park and how good it felt?
I believe the answers are much more complex than a simple yes or no!
I’ll share a story – When I was in grad school in Texas almost 8 years ago, I was doing an informational interview with another student (whom I’ll call Jane as I unfortunately don’t remember her name). Toward the end of our lunch meeting, she told me about her involvement with the Miracle Foundation, a non-profit organization in Austin helping orphans in India. Her journey and experience inspired me to get involved too and since then I have had the privilege to meet the wonderful people running this non- profit, contribute money, volunteer at their orphanages, organize fundraisers, and in that journey empower a few others to join me as well. My involvement with this organization is one of the MOST fulfilling experiences of my life.
Who knows if I would have had this wonderful privilege had I not had that lunch conversation and had Jane not shared about the inspiring work done by the Miracle Foundation and how much she was moved by their work.
Stories are powerful. Stories stick. Stories inspire us to act. The simple act of Jane sharing her story empowered and inspired me to make a difference…
And yet, there are times we share because our ego needs that boost, we want the likes on our FB page or we are seeking approval and need some brownie points for being nice. Unfortunately, I too have fallen into this trap.
I don’t believe there is a straightforward answer to whether we should share or not… and the wisdom lies not just in the what but also in the why, in our intentions and our desire behind sharing and most importantly, the awareness we bring to that action. A few journaling questions to think about –
- Why are you sharing? What are we hoping to create for yourself?
- Are you seeking approval, trying to SHOW that you are a kind person?
- Is there something you are trying to fix about yourself with this story?
- Do we want to inspire others on a new journey?
While it may seem that there is one right answer, I believe there isn’t one and it all comes back to acting with awareness and in integrity with our values. We all do lots of things to feel better and on some occasions getting a small ego boost by sharing how “nice” we are can have its pros if in that process it can also bring food on the table for someone. We each need to decide for ourselves what is driving us to act.
I also find it tremendously helpful to think about how I feel after sharing. When I act with awareness and say things that align with my values, I feel relaxed in my body and content in my heart. And then there are times when my ego gets in the way and if I pay attention, my body gives me instant feedback and I can notice some tension and stress in me. The answers are clear at that point:-)
However, this is what is most important –
We should give and be nice because that’s the right thing to do and not because it gives us some content to share on our twitter feed!
The sharing can be the icing on the cake but we can all try to find the real joy in the act of giving and being kind and not the other way around.
I have been working on an application to make it easy for people to be kind to each other. Like you said, We should all be kind, nice and generous, but there a very few thing that help facilitate that. So I decided to build one. Feedbacks I received is that the application was too idealistic and hence will never work in practice. I faced this problem of whether user should be able to share their act of kindness and decided against it and made everything anonymous, as “idealistically” I thought why would you want any reward for be kind?
Anyway, I put the project on halt because I couldn’t figure a way to devalue its core principle. Your post gave me some perspective. I was wondering if you will be so kind to have a look at the project in your spare time and let me know what you think?
@anselm_k on twitter.
Thank you Anselm and look forward to continuing our conversation over email!