When I started speaking to more classrooms and schools about the #imkinderthanthat movement I wanted to come up with an acronym that would help the students recognize when they might not be making the kindest choices and change the outcome (hence, becoming “kinder than that”). For me, the best thing about this movement has been the acute awareness that I have developed in regards to my thoughts/behavior and my ability to choose the kindest path. Saying “I’m kinder than that” has changed my life and I can only imagine how much different it might have been if I would have learned this saying in elementary school, forty years ago. To be fair to my parents, they always taught me to be accepting and kind to others, but I feel like this mantra takes it to another level because it makes you truly own your kindness (and unkindness).
The acronym that I came up with is JACK. I figured that everyone knows someone named Jack, whether personally or in a story/movie; Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack Sprat, Jack Jack from the Incredibles, Jack Black…you catch my drift. Hopefully it will stick. Here is how it breaks down:
J – Judgement. We all make judgements, it is a fact of life. We use judgements to determine if a situation is safe or not. We use them to decide who we do and don’t want to have relationships with. Many of us choose how we present ourselves based on our own or other people’s judgements. Don’t forget, you can judge yourself as well (and that is generally not helpful to your self-esteem and how you treat others). But here’s the thing about judgements…they can hinder us from seeing what is real, particularly when it comes to other people (and ourselves). I could tell you a million stories about how I misjudged someone or something in my life. Had I just taken the time to be “kinder than that” I would have seen things much clearer.
A – Awareness. Becoming more aware of when we are making judgements about others (and ourselves) is the first step in being kinder. When you see someone for the first time you are dissecting them, whether you realize it or not. What they look like, the clothes that they are wearing, how they talk, their general demeanor…you know, the whole package. What if you took the judgement out of these interactions (with the exception of a potentially dangerous situation)? You would start to really “see” people for who they truly are…not what your judgements tell you to believe. This also goes for yourself…stop judging and start seeing all of your amazing qualities.
This is the “aha moment” where we stop and say “I’m kinder than that”.
C – Compliment/Compassion (take your pick). Once you become cognizant of the fact that you are making these judgements you can start changing your negative behavior. Taking any unhelpful judgement that you make and turning it into a compliment is the fastest way to turn your mindset around. For example; if I find myself having a negative thought about someone or making an unfounded judgement I immediately find something positive about the person. It could be their smile, the sound of their voice, or something that they might be wearing (I know that is superficial, but it works)…really anything that replaces the judgement with kindness. I do this with myself as well, as I can be my own worst enemy. Looking in the mirror and finding what you like about yourself instead of immediately criticizing is the first step on the road to self-acceptance.
The other thing that you can do is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and show some compassion. I am a very impatient person by nature…it’s always go, go, go. If someone is holding me up, I tend to react negatively and not show my kindest self. Since becoming more aware of my judgements I have started to really consider the person that is “annoying me”. Contemplating the reasons why people do what they do can help us develop empathy and compassion. This in turn makes life a whole lot easier to navigate.
K – Kindness. The result of these steps is simply kindness. When you become aware of the judgements that you are making, suddenly compliments come naturally, you find yourself empathizing with people, you’re more accepting of things that you can’t control, impatience is more manageable (at least in my case), and life becomes much more fulfilling. When kindness becomes your default, you will feel yourself becoming more compassionate, thoughtful, generous… “kinder than that”.
There you have it…JACK! Hopefully this acronym helps ALL of you on your journey to be kind!