Where's the Kindness?

"Ugh! No! She will hold me back. She can never keep up," the boy said into the phone. I looked at the girl's face sitting next to him. She looked down. What I wanted to say was, "You can do whatever you set your mind to. Please don't listen to anyone who says you hold them back."

Shortly thereafter, I listened to a group of young girls belittle each other. They took turns verbally tearing each other down and attempted to brush off the comments with giggles. I heard one girl try to stop the verbal assault on herself, and then she turned her words to cut down the offender.

What I should have said was, "Please, listen. I used to do this too. And it's taken me too long to heal from the wounds I've inflicted and received. It's never funny or playful to talk down to each other. You need each other more than you know."

I didn't say anything. I was caring for my daughter and trying to mind my own business. But I should have said something. It took me some time to process and wonder: is this just a part of adolescence, or can we do better? Not just young adults, but all people. Can't we do better with the way we treat each other?

Do we forget, because words don't cause the same visible harm as physical violence, that words are capable of ripping people to pieces? Do we forget, that the words we hear become internalized, a part of our thoughts and self-concept? Do we forget to stand up for ourselves, for others, to explicitly advocate for kindness? 

The way we speak about people, whether it's in front of them or when they are not around, says more about ourselves than others. That is always the case. But more than pointing to a deeper issue, hearing words that cut tells me there is a need for healing. There is a need for understanding. We belong to each other. Let's not forget. When we tear each other down, we are tearing ourselves down with them. The opposite of words that evoke pain are words that build each other up. Words that restore. Words that offer kindness. Because everyone suffers, and everyone longs to be treasured and whole.

May your words be the thread that mends, and may your voice be the one that advocates for kindness, today and always.