Friday, 11 January 2019

Let's start the year with kindness.

This is the article that was first published in the York Press on Tuesday, January 8th 2019

Kindness. A month ago, I knew what the subject would be for the New Year column. It appears that I’m not the only newspaper columnist to have chosen it as a topic in the last couple of weeks. Writers express concern that there was a nastier edge in society in 2018. The Queen alluded to it in her Christmas Day message too. Our reflections have been motivated by the apparent increase of intolerance of others and their opinions. Even if one disregards second and third-hand reports, the filmed proof, live radio and traceable social media comments, makes one aware of strong animosity being regularly and freely expressed.

Of course, there are more outlets for people’s opinions, with twenty-four hour television and radio programmes to be filled and social media. Impulsive thoughts, which previously would have stayed in a person’s mind or go no further than anyone in the same room, are now broadcast worldwide. Sometimes it seems we are communicating in the biggest school playground in the world, with name calling and lack of respect for another’s opinion. The ability to be spontaneous without thinking and poor control over emotional outbursts, mean that more hurtful and insulting words are spoken and written than ever before. Adults are providing poor examples to children.

As a child I was taken with a character in the children’s book by Charles Kingsley called ‘The Water Babies’. The woman is called Mrs Do As You Would Be Done By. The name has come to mind recently. If we could behave toward others as we would like to be treated ourselves, it would be a good start. Avoiding the childish retort, “I didn’t start it, it was them”. Kindness is not difficult, is easily learnt and free. It can feel good too.

The sentiment is as old as the Christian, ‘Do unto others as you would have do unto you’. It features in all main religions. Buddism: ’Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.’ Islam: ‘Do unto all men as you would wish to have done unto you.’  Judaism: ‘What you yourself hate, do to no man’. Hinduism: ‘Treat others as you would yourself be treated.’

Let’s be kinder to one another in 2019 and in turn, kinder to ourselves too. 


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