You Can’t Like Everyone – But You Can Be Kind
Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not. – Samuel Johnson
We can’t like everyone we meet.
Sometimes, you’ll come across someone and have a natural affinity for them. You’ll get chatting at a party, or connect online. You’ll find that you’ve got a similar outlook on life, or the same sense of humor, or compatible values.
But sometimes, you’ll meet someone who you just don’t seem to get along with. Maybe it’s a colleague, or a friend of a friend. You might feel quite justified in your dislike for them, or your distaste. Perhaps they laugh at your values, or engage in behavior which you consider to be destructive. Or maybe you can see their good side – but you still find that they get on your nerves.
We can’t like everyone – and it’s silly to try.
What we can do is treat everyone well. Samuel Johnson sums this up brilliantly in the quote above – kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not. As a Christian, I’ve heard it expressed as you don’t have to like your enemies in order to love them.
It’s perfectly appropriate not to be friends with everyone. You’ll find that some people irritate you, or sap your energy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t treat them kindly.
That isn’t always easy – but it leads to a much better world than sniping at the people you dislike.
Kindness is an Action
Being kind isn’t about how you feel. It’s about what you do.
It’s not hypocritical to be kind to someone who you don’t especially like. Perhaps you’ve got an elderly neighbor who’s critical or disagreeable. Being kind to her might simply mean taking the time to smile and say hello.
And, though it might seem odd, if you behave in a kind way – lending a hand, helping out when you see someone in need – then you’re more likely to feel kindly. You might even start to see someone’s good side, even if there’s still no chance that you’ll ever be friends.
Kindness Might Just Mean Doing Nothing
Sometimes, being kind isn’t just about what you do. It’s also about what you don’t do.
Being kind might mean refraining from gossiping behind someone’s back. It might mean refusing to join in with workplace bullying, or avoiding hurting someone’s feelings.
If a particular action seems unkind, consider whether it’s something that you really need or want to do. Can you find a different way forwards, instead? Or can you even just do nothing at all?
Kindness Is Good for You Too
When we think about kindness, we often see it as something that’s purely altruistic, for the benefit of others. It’s a bit uncomfortable to think about how kindness benefits us, too.
But it’s appropriate to consider why being kind is a good thing for you – especially if that helps motivate you to continue to act in kindness.
If you’re kind to someone you don’t especially like, you’ll hopefully find that:
- They’ll respond well to you. You might not see an immediate change in their behavior, but your kindness will have registered. Over time, small acts of kindness can soften the hardest heart.
- You’ll feel good about yourself. Even if your kindness seems to go unnoticed or unacknowledged, you’ll know that you did the right thing.
- Your attitude will gradually change. Perhaps you thought you’d never be able to like that annoying know-it-all in your book group – but you slowly start to understand them better, as you behave more kindly towards them.
There’ll always be people who you aren’t naturally fond of, for any number of reasons. You can’t be expected to like everyone. But you can make an effort to treat everyone you meet with kindness.
Perhaps you’ve been thinking of a particular person as you read this – maybe someone at work, or at your church, or in your street. They might be someone who you have a poor history with – or someone who you don’t really know at all.
How could you start acting more kindly towards them?