Have you ever heard someone be outright rude to a cashier and said nothing, only to regret it later? It’s not unusual to go through our lives and see someone speaking or acting disrespectfully and say nothing, but we must have the courage to disrupt this narrative. While speaking up when someone is being put down is important, it’s equally important to be brave and model different behaviors.
The quote “Have courage and be kind” comes from the 2015 film adaptation of Cinderella, and this seemingly small quote can offer us powerful guidance toward how we live our lives. Cinderella’s slogan encourages us to face challenges head-on while staying compassionate and empathetic toward others.
In today’s world, where there’s so much debate and hate toward people that are different than us, it’s important to be crystal clear on our values so those of others (politicians, friends, and family members) do not sway us from acting in ways that are aligned with who we really are.
Let’s take a closer look at what it means to “Have courage and be kind,” and how we can embody these qualities in our daily lives.
What Is Courage?
Courage is the ability to face fear, uncertainty, discomfort, and pain and take action despite the risks (perceived or real). Courage requires mental and emotional strength and the willingness to persevere in the face of adversity. We can display courage in a variety of ways, big and small, from stepping out of our comfort zone to try something new to standing up for our beliefs publicly. Courage is all about being able to endure discomfort in order to stay true to ourselves, even when it’s difficult.
What Is kindness?
Kindness is a word that’s often put down – it’s often synonymous with being a people pleaser and being weak. But that is not what kindness is. Kindness is being considerate, about thinking about other people’s needs and wants while considering our own, and showing people empathy and support when they most need it.
Kindness can be shown through small gestures, such as listening to people’s stories and problems, holding open a door, or expressing your gratitude for something someone did for you – even when they “had” to do it. Kindness is all about recognizing the value in others and treating them with respect and dignity.
The Small Ways We Forget Our Courage and Kindness Daily
We face a lot of pressure from external sources in today’s world – we’re constantly bombarded with the opinions of others, from political messaging to social media posts to those we see and speak to in real life. It’s human to want to be liked by others, so it takes real courage to make choices every day that are true to our values. Some of the ways we can often lose this part of ourselves are:
- Agreeing with others: We often nod and “yes” other people we speak to when they say something we do not agree with, to ensure we do not rock the boat or get into conflict with others, even when we absolutely do not agree.
- Failing to show gratitude when it’s someone’s job to do something: It’s easy to forget to say thank you and overlook something someone does in service of you when it’s their job to do it, or it’s the rules that they should.
- Failing to donate to good causes we believe in: Many people fail to contribute to good causes, even though they have the means to give, either because it’s too hard to do so or because we feel as though a small donation will not mean anything.
- Perpetuating racial disparities and gender issues: Racial and gender issues in the US continue to persist, and in some cases, seem to be moving backward. When we do not speak up for injustices because they don’t affect us, or because we support them internally, we often inadvertently contribute to the problem.
- Holding grudges: Forgiveness isn’t always easy to give, but holding onto grudges for small mistakes and slights only serves to add more unkindness to the world.
How Can We Live a Life Full of Courage and Kindness?
Living a life to the fullest that fully embodies the saying Have courage and be kind, isn’t easy, but it’s a pursuit that can lead to a better world and a greatly improved sense of well-being. Some of the ways we can bring more courage and kindness to our lives are to:
- Practice self-awareness: Becoming more aware of our thoughts and actions can help us identify areas where we need to improve.
- Practice self-compassion: If you hold yourself to such a high standard and never forgive yourself for mistakes, you’ll find it difficult to forgive others.
- Stand up for what you believe in: We often have to make baby steps here, but start thinking about ways you can be bolder and have more courage when confronted with something you don’t believe in. One of the best first steps is to stop going along when someone says something you don’t agree with – you don’t have to be confrontational. Just don’t nod, don’t smile, and look as if you want to get away from the situation – do, if you need to. Unfollow people on social media who say things you don’t agree with; refuse to be a part of their audience. Then take it a step further and say something when someone is rude to someone else in your company.
- Practice empathy: Put yourself in the shoes of others and think of things from their perspective. If you are with someone who is being uncompassionate, prompt them to step into the shoes of the people they are criticizing.
- Look to positive influences: Surround yourself (physically or digitally) with people who share your values and inspire you to be your best self. A good baby step to speaking up for what you believe in is to share their content and let your beliefs speak through their messaging.
How Can We Cultivate Empathy in Ourselves and Our Communities?
Cultivating empathy within ourselves and our communities requires intentional effort and practice. Here are some strategies to help you foster empathy and understanding within yourself and those around you:
- Engage in active listening: When conversing with others, pay close attention to their words, emotions, and body language. Give them your undivided attention and refrain from interrupting or imposing your thoughts. This shows respect and can help you better understand their feelings and perspectives.
- Educate yourself: Learn about different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences to broaden your understanding of others. This can involve reading books, watching documentaries, or attending workshops and events that promote inclusivity and diversity. Don’t forget that you can speak to people, too, to understand their experiences and the way they think.
- Practice perspective-taking: Imagine yourself in someone else’s situation and consider how you would feel or react. This exercise can help you develop empathy by allowing you to see things from another person’s point of view. Encourage those you’re with to do the same, whether it’s your child, grandfather, or a stranger.
- Volunteer and engage with diverse communities: By offering your time and resources to help others, you can gain valuable insights into the challenges they face. Volunteering also provides an opportunity to connect with people from different backgrounds, fostering understanding and empathy.
- Encourage open dialogue: Promote conversations in your community about empathy, inclusivity, and understanding. This can be done through community-wide events or simply by having better conversations with your kids.
- Model empathetic behavior: Lead by example and demonstrate empathy in your daily interactions. This can inspire others to adopt similar behaviors, creating a ripple effect in your community. A good way to do this is to look for an action you can take each day to help someone else. Again, don’t overthink this; one day it could be waiting so you can hold the door open for the person following you into the gym, and the next it could be picking up something your neighbor needs from the grocery store. Little kindnesses impact the world too.
- Kill them with kindness: We all encounter situations where someone is coming at us with an aggressive attitude, often while we’re at work or when someone makes a mistake. While we can’t always keep our cool (and we should have self-compassion for those moments), if we can remain calm and either be understanding or non-reflective of that aggression, we can de-escalate a situation by showing kindness.
Living With Kindness
Remember, kindness is not giving people what they want when they’re in the wrong, it’s having respect for the fact that they too have feelings and values. It’s a difficult path to walk, but with practice, you’ll become a master at showing compassion and kindness without giving way to disrespectful behavior.
“Have courage and be kind” is a powerful reminder that, despite the pressures and challenges we face, we have the power to choose how we respond to them. We can create a more compassionate, understanding, and inclusive world by cultivating courage and kindness within ourselves and our communities. It’s not easy to maintain kindness every day, without giving in to bad behavior or shutting down and engaging in it ourselves, which is why we must have courage and make kindness a habit, even when it is not easy.
Theresa Bedford is a syndicated freelance home and travel writer with regular contributions to the Associated Press wire and MSN. She helps everyday people love the life they have through simplicity, organization, and prioritization.