Kindness is the definition of strength, not its antithesis

I learned to unpack my masculinity and accept kindness as a sign of strength

In a journey for personal growth, I’ve found developing oneself is often a balancing act: We must not float too directly in one direction, otherwise, we risk skewing our worldview toward a certain narrative. 

In order to develop a more reasonable perspective, we must accept what we do not necessarily agree with. This is how we are to grow and to develop our sense of rationality. 

Life, from that view, then becomes an inherent struggle of solving the irrationalities present in one’s thinking. For me, this comes down to specific tendencies and psychological habits. I know, for example, that my own perceptions of myself are often misguided and dis-attuned with reality — I usually either think too lowly or too highly of myself.

Like many others, I worry about what people may think of me. I fear their judgment.

In particular, my moral compass is, to a sense, distorted in its concern for the opinion of others; more plainly, I fear that harsh people will interpret my intentions for kindness as a sign of weakness.

This dilemma goes rather deep for me. When I moved out on my own, an intrinsic part of my identity became this idea of possessing some level of strength, and though this strength was never explicitly defined, it had a sort of tangibility; the thought that I was strong made me so. 

Traversing the trials of developing strength came to a standstill in conjunction with the idea of kindness. My mind’s depiction of kindness and strength enumerated them as two distinct and mutually exclusive quantities. The two were at odds with one another, and as such an increase in kindness equated to a decrease in strength. 

I still struggle to identify where this cognitive distortion emerged in my line of thinking. My thought process darts back to early childhood; I wonder if preconditioned ideals of masculinity and men's ulterior purpose left me disillusioned with my own goals in life. 

Could the ideas in which I rooted my masculine identity be infecting my new personhood?

The balancing act between these two subsets of human interaction leaves me perplexed at analysis. How could an act of selflessness be interpreted as weak in any capacity? 

My life has shown me that the antithesis is true, or rather that acts of kindness are the true epitome of strength. 

In the attainment of strength, it can be easy to rely on arrogance and ego-centrism as a cop-out, creating the illusion of the strong man who must make tough decisions, regardless of the feelings of others. My perception is different. I see us as fragile beings — all sexes and genders — and a complete indoctrination in our mindset leads to a lack of growth. 

The role of the man — in the home, the workplace and elsewhere — should no longer be defined by abstract qualities such as strength and determination, but instead by definable outcomes and characteristics like kindness and compassion. In this way, a man can be measured by the good he brings into the lives of others and his ability to alleviate the inherent suffering in the world. 

The adoption of this mindset offers me more versatility — the name of the game is not to mold myself to this predetermined picture of a man. My ultimate goal must be to help others no matter the cost, and then only the end will bring about the necessary clarity to judge my worth as an individual.

Life is very much like a soup: The more time and effort you put into the process, the greater the resulting product. And with my life, I know that putting in the kindness needed to make a better world is worth the effort, regardless of what the naysayers may think. 

Besides, if someone is hating on compassion, maybe I need to be the one to show them some. The cliche "a little kindness goes a long way" rings true, and we could all use it more. 


Reach the reporter at cbeal4@asu.edu and follow @beal_camden on Twitter. 

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