‘Be kind’ they told us, when the world lost Caroline flack. And those two words flew swiftly around the internet, spreading their message. Yet in no time at all, you could find a myriad social media threads repeating the same shameful mistakes; condemning, public-shaming, judging without due fact.

Donne Ashworth, I Wish I Knew

Donne Ashworth, I Wish I Knew

And it started me wondering, do we understand what kindness truly is?

Do we think ‘be kind’, means throwing out a well-intentioned compliment here and there, or putting our shopping trolley back in its line?

For me, kindness, is about empathy. Being willing to learn the facts, look closely at the affecting factors and put yourself in someone else’s shoes, before forming an opinion. And until that internal thought process is over, giving respect and ‘benefit of doubt’.

In a nutshell, everyone you meet deserves your automatic acceptance and respect until circumstance proves any different.

Kindness is refusing to go straight to judgment when someone behaves in a way you don’t like or when another human being stands up to be counted.

Kindness is believing we are all part of the same energy and cannot thrive individually if others do not also.

Kindness is taking action when a human in front of you appears to be in need. No matter how embarrassing the brush-off may be, or whether or not it feels ‘appropriate’. Kindness is taught mostly by action and not word. And perhaps that is why it is an art form? Hopefully not a dying one.

I think if your mission is to be kind, or to teach how, you must truly start with yourself first. Because it is in that self-relationship, that the bullying, the abuse, the lack of empathy, really begins.

So how to start that journey, if you haven’t already?

How to begin self-kindness, when you have so far muddled along ‘just fine’, with a daily negative method?

Try aiming lower.

Instead of tackling the sheer scale height of that self-love mountain, for example, aim for base camp - self-acceptance.

It is much easier to reach self-neutrality, self-respect, self-appreciation, than it is to say you can self-love.

Basic respect.

Basic compassion.

Basic willingness to learn more about a person’s pain.

Basic desire to be of support, to be of help, to be available.

To quote the opening line from a poem of mine, “If you worry you're not kind enough, then I think you’re already so.” Because the basic want to be kind, the basic desire to try, is the sign of a good, kind, foundation to build upon.