Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Kindness Project: Do Good Anyway

Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole. It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts. We post the second Wednesday of every month.

Do Good Anyway

I'd like to say that kindness is easy. That it's simple, really.

But. It's not even easy to talk about always. That's what I'm discovering.

Last month when a bunch of us were first discussing the creation of The Kindness Project, several writers expressed their concern that they didn't feel kind--that they weren't "qualified" when it came to matters of kindness. And you know what I told them? "You're one of the kindest people I know." I suppose it's a matter of perception, really. And self-perception is often a bit skewed.

But not always. Sometimes we're truly not kind. Sometimes, we're complete jackwads. And the truth is I don't feel qualified to do this, to talk about kindness as a conscious choice. A lifetime habit. A matter of existence. I've never struggled so much with a blog post as I have with this one. Because who the hell am I to be talking about kindness? I don't know anything about being good.

Let me confess. I've not been right for a long time. Like, all kinds of sad. Especially since I came back from Haiti. It's been a miserable, boiling pit of heartbreak and helplessness. I've blamed myself, feeling, well...guilty. I didn't do enough; I made poor choices; I'm not and will never be enough. It's hard to explain without going into the thick of it, which would take a long time and I'd have to leave a lot of blank spaces for you at the end of it all. But I told myself this would be a good post for The Kindness Project. I'd talk about forgiveness, see. Like, forgiving the self as a matter of kindness--accepting the self, faults and frailties included. So I sat down last night and stared into my video camera because no matter how hard I tried to write it down, the words just wouldn't come out right. And I stared for hours. I finally gave up at 3:30 AM when I realized I couldn't do it. I couldn't let myself go into that sad place, not then. I've tried so hard not to think about it, you know? And really, I'm not at a place of forgiveness yet, not for me. I still feel so raw, so wrong. So how can I inspire you to forgive yourself?

The problem with feeling like you're no good at all is that you turn away from things you love. You don't deserve them, you think. Or you don't know how to look at them without being reminded of the wrongness in you. Your friends. Your family. Your spouse.Your church. Your writing. Freaking cupcakes.

I've denied myself all these things.

And just as bad? You start thinking that you're not really capable of kindness. People will see right through it, right? They'll see what a fraud you are. Who do you think you are with all your pretenses?

It doesn't matter how logical you are. How wise. How experienced. It's hard to feel like you might be judged for doing bad things. But it's even harder to feel like you can do good things and it means nothing at all, that everyone will question your motives. Or worse, that YOU might.

Just tonight I was texting my friend Liz (at 11:30 PM) that I still couldn't get myself to blog about kindness. Kindness block, she called it. I talked to her a little about why. And you know what she did? She reminded me of the tattoo I'm getting: "Do good anyway."

Huh. Yeah. Yeah.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

--Mother Teresa

The thing is, it doesn't matter how good or bad you feel inside or what people will think, or if they will question your motives. It doesn't even matter if the reasons for doing good and being kind are screwed up. It only matters that you do good. The things you've done in your past are just that--YOUR PAST. The bad choices you make now and tomorrow and after may not be erased by the good that you do, but you must do good anyway. 

Because the bad, the guilt, the wrong inside does not erase the good that you do. So do it. Do good anyway.


Be sure to check out the other June posts for The Kindness Project

 Sophia Chang                  
 Erica Chapman                      
Jessica Corra                        
Elizabeth Davis                       
Christa Desir                          
Sarah Fine                              
Claire Hennessy                     
Elana Johnson                        
Amie Kaufman                        
Liza Kane
Sara Larson
Matthew MacNish
Sara McClung
Leigh Moore
Tracey Neithercott 

Feeling inspired to join us? Grab our banner and inspire a little kindness.

37 comments:

  1. Be kind to yourself too Carolina! You need nurturing as much as the next person! Doing good in the everyday takes so much effort when you are not happy within yourself - but doing good in the everyday doesn't have to be big grand gestures too. Just asking how someone is is sometimes all you can do and all that makes a difference to that person. Take care
    x

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  2. I often end my day with a nagging sense of regret. I could have been a better mother, a better friend. It feels miserable because I failed myself AND other people. But feeling that way just saps my capacity for anything, so I tell myself "do better tomorrow." Sometimes it's all I can do: commit to giving it a try all over again the next day.

    Carol, I agree with Old Kitty--kindness is kindness whether you're feeling it or not, and self-care to increase your ability to face it all is essential whether you feel you deserve it or not. (YOU DO ... but I get it) *hugs*

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  3. This makes so much sense Carol, and I totally get where you are coming from. I love the Mother Theresa poem, she was so wise, and she is right. You can't solve Haiti's problems in a matter of days (and their problems were massive even before the earthquake). But YOU and your team made a difference in many lives. Just imagine the alternatives-- what if you didn't try? What if you didn't go to Haiti? What if you didn't care? I can't imagine things would be better that way.

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  4. I loved the words of Mother Theresa. They are so true.

    I'm sure you did your best in Haiti. You shouldn't feel bad that you couldn't do it all. You're right we're not always kind. I can remember not being kind yesterday when I was stressed at work and my computer would not work. But you're right. It's in the past. And I'm going to try to be kinder in the future.

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  5. Oh, I swear you were just in my head for a little bit. Wow. What a wonderful, wonderful post. Mother Teresa sure does know how to make a point. I think I'll write that down and keep it with me always.

    ~JD

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  6. Amazing, as always. You have such a grasp on human emotion. This is such an honest post. I love Mother Teresa's words. Beautiful.

    YOU deserve only wonderful things, Carol <3<3

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  7. I felt every single word of this post. (and, dude, in many ways we wrote the same post.)

    Please...please please please, be kind to yourself. Find some of that beautiful Carol compassion for Carol. Even if you think you don't deserve it (and you do. YOU DO.)...BE KIND TO YOURSELF ANYWAY.

    Love you,
    L

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  8. Wow. What an amazing post. This is the post I wish I'd written. You are an amazing example of kindness to me. I will never forget the sweet things you've done for me. <3 you.

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  9. I'm sorry you are still feeling the heartache of Haiti, yet glad you had that experience. You'll never forget it and even if you get frustrated with yourself and down on yourself about what you didn't do, you did a LOT. You did good. You were kind. You showed love and that was what it was all about. It's hard when you can't save the world, but doing and giving what you can does matter. You matter. Never forget that. <33

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  10. This is the most poignant post I've read in a long time. Because it's so true. It doesn't matter what's happened in the past, or how others respond to you, or what they think. What matters is that you choose kindness anyway.

    I'm so sorry you've been going through this yuck place. I have been there, and I wouldn't wish it on ANYONE. But know this: You will eventually come to that place where you look back and go, "I'm not there anymore. I made it out of the darkness." It will be such a marked change in your life, and you will be better for it.

    *hugs*

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  11. Carol, YOU are one of the kindest people I know. So you're right, it is all about perception. I wish I could help to carry you through some of the hurt you're feeling about Haiti, but I don't know how--other than to tell you, no matter what, you made a difference in people's lives. Whether for one day or for a lifetime, you did something good. You brought a bit of light into darkness. <3

    I am obsessed with the idea of your tattoo! Wish I'd thought of it myself ;) (I actually have been going over a few different ideas as reminders to be kind!)

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  12. This was absolutely beautiful. Thank you for posting, thank you for doing good anyway. I know you don't feel like it, but you are a beautiful person and your posts are incredibly uplifting. Also, I am going to tape this to my mirror: "The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway."

    *hugs* Thanks for this. :)

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  13. Wow, this is thought provoking stuff and brilliantly put. I would follow but I'm having trouble with Blogger at the minute and can't follow blogs.

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  14. Beautifully written, Carolina, like you always do. I'd like to join the project...so I could do a little bit of kindness which I feel I haven't done enough of in my life yet. I'd like to do more.

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  15. You are so honest and amazing. And I'm floored that you didn't think you could write about kindness because I think you are one of the nicest people!
    I like "Do Good Anyway." Actually, I love it.

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  16. Frank. Honest. Heartfelt. Your post is all of these things which makes it bursting with kindness because your heart is for others, not yourself. To be honest, I still mull over your returning from Haiti post too. And do good anyway is the answer.

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  17. Yes. Awesome awesome post. I, like you and the writers you mentioned, don't feel like a particularly 'kind' person. I'm not a bad person. I don't hurt people. And I do 'rend-service' when I can. But don't feel the things I do regularly qualify as being intentionally kind. But I guess the important thing is that we do them anyway. Anything that helps rather than hurts or hinders. Love Mother Teresa's words! Just beautiful.

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  18. Carol, this is a place I've been too many times in my life, but I've never been able to express it so eloquently. Your kindness may feel like it isn't coming from an accessible place, but it's very accessible to all of us around you. I feel it every time our lives touch. <3

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  19. Do good anyway is a great message.
    And just to let you know, I'm getting a warning every time I visit your site.

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  20. Aww sounds like you are having a rough time. Join the club. Forgiveness is a fabulous place to start. What a wonderful act of kindness that is to yourself. Forgive yourself everything. There is no perfect way to behave or act or think or do. Forgive yourself and move on. Amazing MT quote - gonna nick that. Thanks Carol for all your recent kindness to me.

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  21. My god. I think all of us in the Project ring should get that tattoo.

    I've always loved tattoos but never known what I'd want to keep for life and that seriously is so powerful. If I get it I will credit you of course. (where are you getting it anyway?)

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  22. This post is so beautiful and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing it!

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  23. I'm always impressed and moved by your posts, Carolina, because you're always honest and real. I'm sorry you're going through a rough time, but thank you for this post, for even thinking about being kind and doing good. You're doing both of those things, and even if you can't see it, others can. Love this motto too: do good anyway. It's the same as what they say about being brave, right? It's about doing something anyway, in spite of fear, not because the fear isn't there.

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  24. Well, that was a lovely post! So, hopefully that makes you feel a bit better after worrying about it. Actually, you always write awesome posts, and I'm not just saying that.

    Frankly, I don't think I could even do what you did by going to Haiti. I would be an emotional basketcase, and selfishly, I'd be afraid to go into a scary situation like that.

    I'm gonna add to the "do good anyway" motto. And the addition is this: Just love yourself. Do it! It's fun :)

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  25. Do good anyway. I wish that I could talk to you about Haiti. I have a different understanding if it that might help. Or not. I married a Haitian man. His grandfather was the head of the military under Baby Doc. Then he realized all the corruption and started speaking out. Radical kindness in a different way. I have much to say about this issue, but I imagine that it isn't just the poverty that tore at you. Ping me if you'd ever like to talk.
    I visit the broken places frequently too, my fearless friend.

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  26. Having been a recipient of your kindness so many times, all I can say is please give yourself credit for how good you are. Yes, we all have faults, and no matter how hard we try, we will never be as good as we perceive we can be. That's an issue with everyone...we are human after all. But just the "trying" to be nice demonstrates that you are.

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  27. Carolina, if you're not good enough, I'm in trouble. You went to Haiti. Wanted to go. Worried you weren't going to get to go. That's huge.

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  28. I second Theresa - and everybody else. What you did *was* huge and selfless and generous)as well as your family for letting you go) and you gave your heart and hands in small ways and big ways both. You darling girl, I can't believe you're tearing yourself into pieces still, I feel the pain in your post and want to take it away. But kindness is a life-long process, and we learn every single day.

    I do know two things at this moment though.

    1. I am so very blessed to know you.

    2. Don't stay up until 3:30 a.m. agonizing over a blog post again. Show some kindness to your husband and go to bed with him on time and wrap your arms around him! He'll appreciate it. :-)

    xoxo,
    Kimberley

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  29. For a moment I thought you meant you were getting that whole Mother Theresa quote tatted on you, and I was going to say you're way too skinny for that, Carol.

    But then I figured it out.

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  30. Ahh, that is the most awesome passage from MT! I want to highlight the whole thing, but in the end it's btw you and God. The truth is you did a wonderful thing going to Haiti. At least you WENT! You did something and didn't just sit by and let them go unhelped. I can't imagine how sad it must be to see suffering children and then come back home. But I suppose it's like that starfish story. It mattered to that one. You're an amazing person. And this is a fantastic post. Thanks for writing it! :o) ((hugs)) <3

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  31. Clearly we're our harshest critics because you are the kindest person I've ever met. I'm sad that you can't see it. Don't you doubt for a minute that what you did in Haiti mattered. It did. I'm not sure if there's more to your worry or not, but I can at least say with certainty that going there made a difference to the people whose lives you touched and probably countless others who you never even met.

    I'm so, so sorry you're going through this hard time. There's nothing fun about being in the thick of it, but I do think you can come out on the other side stronger. As always, I'm here for you. I might not be able to physically give you a much-needed hug from here, but I'm a pretty good listener. Email/text/call whenever. I just want you to feel better. :)

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  32. This is an amazing post, and honestly, exactly what I needed to hear today.

    Thank you.

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  33. I love that quote so much. Where has it been all my life?

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  34. Beautifully said honey, you have me completely choked up. I want to give you a big hug and tell you everything will be alright. In many ways, it won't though. Once your eyes have been opened to the darkness of the world you never see it the same. But there is beauty in it as well and that is what we keep going for.

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  35. Found the Project on Leigh's site and have had a passion for kindness a LONG time, so this is a great way for me to take it further! Nice job! Let's keep it going and keep the importance of kindness out there!

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  36. Totally agree with your suggestion... Very nice post and good information here... Thanks for posting that....

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