Not done with your shopping yet?
Here are three gifts to give this season: kindness, compassion, and acceptance.
In the months leading up to Christmas, people start searching for just the perfect gift to give people on their list. Do we buy a new sweater for dad? A video game for our son? New running shoes for our daughter?
The closer it gets to Christmas, the more intense the search for just the right gift becomes. However, in all of our busyness and desire for perfection, we often overlook some of the simplest and yet most important gifts that we could give.
The gifts of kindness, compassion, and acceptance are valued not only by our friends and family members but by everyone in our extended community. Each time we give one of these gifts, it continues beyond the recipient.
Mahatma Gandhi is credited with saying, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” So if you want to begin to change even your small corner of the world, let’s explore these gifts and the change that they can make not only in ourselves as givers but also in those around us who receive the gift.
Kindness is defined as being friendly and generous, and considerate. And yet kindness is so much more than just being nice and being polite. Kindness is a form of love.
The ancient Greeks had six different words for love:
Eros – sexual passion
Philia – deep friendship
Ludus – playful love
Pragma – long-standing love.
Philautia – the love of self
Agape – the love of everyone
When we ponder kindness, it is the ancient Greek, agape, or love of everyone, that is most similar. Agape love is sometimes referred to as divine love. In Christian traditions, it is often connected to God’s unconditional love to people and the devotion of people to God. Agape love is not a love of emotions and feelings but of willingness and choice. Agape is about benevolence and goodwill.
Like kindness, agape love is a motivation for action rather than a warm fuzzy feeling. It is something that we are free to choose to act upon or not act. Agape love, like kindness, is voluntary.
“Kindness his love made visible.”~ Henk Swanepoel, PhD
So how do we give the gift of kindness?
Take action. Active acts of kindness can be simple things like holding a door open for someone, smiling and saying hello to your neighbors as they pass, or helping someone carry a heavy package. Or acts of kindness can involve a bit more effort. You could bake cookies or muffins and drop them off for your neighbors or send a notecard or postcard to a friend or family member. These days, our mailboxes are only filled with bills and advertising, so getting on a personal note can be very meaningful. You could leave a positive comment on a blog post or social media post or leave a positive recommendation on LinkedIn to encourage friends and colleagues.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”~ Plato
Consider your interactions with others. So often, we get in the habit of being dismal. Looking for ways to laugh more and complain less is a subtle kindness to others. If there are things that you are dealing with that are barriers to your ability to be kind to others, take steps to work through the barrier. Spend time in self-reflection, or schedule an appointment with your therapist to process the things that get in the way of you sharing kindness with others.
Compassion is a gift that we give to ourselves and others. It’s defined as sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Commit compassion combines awareness of other people’s feelings and situations and the desire to provide support and comfort. Compassion has been demonstrated to improve social connections, increase happiness, decrease depression, and improve physical health and general well-being.
“If compassion was the motivating factor behind all of our decisions, would our world not be a completely different place?”~ Sheryl Crow
Often, we are aware of others’ suffering but don’t allow ourselves to sit with others’ suffering because it is too painful. As a society, we have been trained to avoid suffering. Practice becoming aware of your urges to avoid or discount suffering in yourself and others. Compassion is not feeling pity for someone else. It is acknowledging and sitting with their suffering.
“Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.”~ Dalai Lama
Once you become aware of your urges to avoid, begin to increase your stamina by practicing being non-judgmental, listening deeply to others, looking at the world through other’s perspectives, and accepting. When you develop these skills in your life, you can give the gift of compassion.
Acceptance is defined as an act of accepting something or someone or being received as adequate, valid, or suitable. It recognizes the truth in the situation, accepting the facts. Acceptance is one of the greatest gifts that you can give someone. It goes beyond merely tolerating something or someone.
“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”~ Elizabeth Gilbert
People often struggle with the concept of acceptance, as they are not clear about what acceptance is and is not.
- Acceptance doesn’t mean that you must like or approve of something, nor is it giving in. You are acknowledging that this is the way that things are at this point.
- Acceptance isn’t a one time deal. Like many things in life, we need to practice acceptance daily. Some days acceptance will be easier than others. Accept anyway.
- Just because you accept something doesn’t mean that you don’t work to change something when the time is right. Acceptance isn’t passive; it is active.
“Acceptance can transform, but if you accept to transform, it is not acceptance. It’s like loving. Love seeks no reward but when freely given comes back a hundredfold. He who loses his life finds it. He who accepts, changes.”~ Marsha Linehan
Give the gift of acceptance by exploring your beliefs and emotions related to what you want to accept. Notice tendencies towards judgments and work to correct them. If your beliefs are a stumbling block for acceptance, seek to understand
Delivering the Gifts
Remember that the gifts of kindness, compassion, and acceptance are not just gifts for the Christmas season. As you move into the new year, consider ways that you can continue to share these gifts with friends, family, neighbors, and even yourself.
. . . . .
Seeking Health and Happiness One Day at a Time.
Marcy Berg is a writer and therapist living in the Pacific Northwest and exploring thoughts on mental health, wellness, and happiness. She can be found at Growing Through Life and Seeking Greener Pastures.