Family Matters: Cultivating Kindness

Williamsburg, VA; carpet detail

Recently, I ran across the following in two places, and it struck a chord with me about some ways our family could stand to improve:

Showing kindness –

  • Courteous words instead of sharp retorts.
  • Smiles instead of blank looks.
  • Enthusiasm instead of dullness.
  • Response instead of indifference.
  • Warmth instead of coldness.
  • Understanding instead of the closed mind.
  • Attention instead of neglect.
  • Patience instead of irritation.
  • Sincerity instead of sham.
  • Consideration instead of annoyance.

I didn’t know who wrote it, but it was important enough to me to copy it onto our kitchen marker board. What I especially appreciate about the list is the items that have to do with the need to push oneself to respond to others in a positive way. I think our family has stressed communication skills like speaking courteously and being patient, but maybe we haven’t thought to train ourselves as well as we might to react with “smiles instead of blank looks, response instead of indifference, warmth instead of coldness, and attention instead of neglect.” These seem to be skills that a more reserved person has to work harder at than an outgoing one, and as I am outgoing mother, I think it just didn’t occur to me to stress them as our kids were growing up.

They matter, though, a lot, in our everyday relationships, and strengthening relationships is part of what we’re all about around here.

Williamsburg, VA; doll on child’s bed

The importance of these ideas struck me harder because I recently finished listening to the audiobook, Happier at Home, by Gretchen Rubin, in which she discusses one of her goals: Give warm greetings and farewells.

What a simple but helpful rule for a household! Our family has always followed the practice of not leaving the house without telling at least one person where they are headed and their expected return time, but we’ve never articulated the why of that beyond saying it is simple courtesy. The why is hard to express, but the “kindness list” helps me — when we search one another out before leaving from and when arriving at our shared home, it is a concrete way to give warmth, attention, and consideration, which all add up to being kind to one another.

Little things, but they add up to a home where the people feel warmed, attended to, considered, and loved.

Williamsburg, VA; apothecary shop window

I went searching online for the author of the quote. It is from a book called The Art of Living, by Wilferd Allan Peterson, published in 1963. I found that it had made the rounds as a salesman “thing” in the early sixties, even used at a “pump them up” meeting for cigarette salespeople!

No matter. Truth is truth, right? And there is more to it. Here is the whole thing:

Showing kindness –

  • Courteous words instead of sharp retorts.
  • Smiles instead of blank looks.
  • Enthusiasm instead of dullness.
  • Response instead of indifference.
  • Warmth instead of coldness.
  • Understanding instead of the closed mind.
  • Attention instead of neglect.
  • Patience instead of irritation.
  • Sincerity instead of sham.
  • Consideration instead of annoyance.
  • Remembering people instead of forgetting them.
  • Facts instead of arguments.
  • Creative ideas instead of the humdrum.
  • Helpfulness instead of hindrance.
  • Giving instead of getting.
  • Action instead of delay.
  • Appreciation instead of apathy.

Do any of these resonate with you as things your family already does well or that could take some improvement? Ours has plenty of fodder for growth, for sure!

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2 Comments

  1. Amber
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Amen! I am going to find a way to get this saying on my wall!

  2. louise jane
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    have copied this ready to print out in the morning for my kitchen wall x

  • Your comment is the best part of this blog! Share what’s on your mind here.

  • In My Kitchen, In My Life is a place where women (and the odd male) can be encouraged, nudged, and occasionally kicked in the pants toward living their lives on a higher plane. Oh, and readers get plenty of chances to laugh at the author's foibles, which is always worth a click.

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