In our patriarchal world in which hyper-masculinity is too often imposed, and far too overvalued, kindness is a quality that is often looked down upon, overlooked. It is seen as a weakness. Maybe it is the fact that kindness and compassion and empathy and all those beautiful human characteristics have been viewed as feminine and by association weaker for a long long time.
I confess that I myself previously viewed kindness in that way. I would look at my beloved storybooks, seeking out strong female role models, and single out girls that I felt fit the image. And often, my complaint would be such: “She’s not very strong. She’s too nice.” Or something of the sort.
That isn’t to say that kindness is always necessary. In fact, the push for girls to “be nice” all the time is actually harmful. They don’t learn to stand up for themselves when they need to. And as a woman who has participated in martial arts for a long time now, I fully encourage anyone but especially girls to be as nasty as they need to, to yell and scratch and bite and get the hell out of a bad situation.
But aside from those serious situations, those rare moments in which survival is paramount, life mostly isn’t about kicking butts and taking names. And another thing I’ve learned from my martial arts experience is the true value of kindness, for all people. Strength isn’t how many pushups you can do, or how many other kids you’ve beaten up on the playground. Strength isn’t isolating yourself from others while thinking you’re being tough. True strength is the ability to be kind when it’s most difficult. It’s spreading sunflowers instead of shotgun shells. It’s thinking a compliment in your head and actually bestowing it - a tiny effort that is appreciated so greatly by the recipient. It’s small choices every day in a society full of standards constantly pressing from all sides. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.