Kindness vs Respect

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

This quote is literally everywhere – on T-shirts, on posters, on bumper stickers. It is plastered on school bulletin boards, and children are constantly being told to “be kind”.

Yet “kind” can sometimes not be “kind” at all — by definition, it can be divisive — the exact opposite of what someone who identifies as being “kind” wants to portray themselves as.

How can that be?

When used as an adjective to describe someone, “kind” means: “of a sympathetic nature or helpful nature”.  When used as a noun, it means: “a group united by common traits or interests”.

And this is really what “kind” means to so many who preach “kindness”, it means to act in a way that puts you in a group united by the common traits or interests of those who deem themselves to be kind.  

Kind is subjective. It tends to be completely owned by the person and subject to their definition of what “kind” is. Respect is objective:  It takes a look at the situation from both your perspective and the perspective of the person you are dealing with. 

Respect also applies to ALL situations, whereas kindness does not.

Take for example kids playing noisily all day every day on the street outside where an elderly couple lives. The elderly couple complains and are told by the parents of the children that that they should not have chosen to live in this “kind” of neighborhood if they didn’t want to hear children playing all day every day. They accuse the elderly couple of being mean-spirited and not “kind” … not their kind of kind, anyway.

Looking at this situation through the lens of respect, however, they would see it differently. They would have taken into account the position of elderly couple, the surroundings, their own position, and negotiated a compromise or workable solution. Instead, they accuse the elderly couple of not being “kind” and see the only recourse is for them to leave. What they mean is that they aren’t their kind of “kind”!

I hope that by making this slight shift in perspective can help you teach your kids that it’s not about being “kind” it’s about being respectful and looking for solutions and not dead-end ultimatums. Be respectful and it’s easy to be thought of as “kind”.


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