Updated: Jun 18
Kindness is a candle amongst stone hearts— also the most difficult task today in an age where we all thrive on collective sadness and traumas. We’re a stressed generation, hyperstimulated by the fast-paced social media. One way or another, we’re constantly influenced by artificial portrayals of lifestyle choices of equally, if not more, sad people who just pretend to be happy and successful. So, when a normal or not so perfect life is constantly compared to a ‘perfect’ benchmark, all that stress of not meeting society’s expectations turns into frustration and latent anger. And this is what takes up the space for patience and kindness in us and turns us into impatient, passive-aggressive individuals. Oh, but since our society also expects us to be kind and friendly at all times in the public eye, often it’s our family or the ones closest to us who get to see the short-tempered, sulky side of us. Kindness just isn’t a trait to show-off when surrounded by people who can form a public opinion about us. Rather, it entails a set of behaviors and practices that we need to work on when we are with people who get to see us unfiltered for the majority of our lives.
Let me tell you the story of Tashfeen. Nineteen, silky, brown curls, average height, and an immense skill for programming mobile games. Since she was the eldest daughter of the household, her parents always used her as an example for her younger two siblings. She had the best manners growing up, the highest grades in her class, already earning, showcasing her talents— there were countless tales of her endeavors that her siblings had to hear repeatedly, not noticing the silent ache in their parents’ hearts.
See, all the words her parents had to speak of her praise were becoming quite repetitive on their tongues, and were always on the same subjects: Tashfeen just got another A, or Tashfeen just made another popular game— because all that they would hear from her would be of these two topics. Otherwise, she’d always be in her room either working on another game, studying for a test or just watching a show when she had time to spare. The only time her parents or siblings would see her would be at the dinner table, that too, when she wouldn't take the food back to her room. Her parents would invite her to sit with them in the evening but she’d never stay for more than ten minutes. She’d always be too busy to help around the household, and in the few minutes of free time she’d get, she couldn’t waste them playing silly games with her little brother and sister.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the time, she would always be the most polite and only snapped at her little brother sometimes when he wouldn’t leave her alone or maybe a few times at her mother when she’d insist too much to take a break from her phone. But it was too little and was easy to look past and wasn’t the reason her whole family would physically feel her absence among them.
That probably wasn’t the kindness-to-your-family story you were expecting, I suppose. But the thing is, kindness is more than friendly smiles and politeness. It includes an even more neglected factor: the time our families deserve yet don't end up getting from our day. It includes us playing an active and present role in their lives rather than just spending all that time alone. Tashfeen was never unkind to anyone who knew her outside her home, but amongst her family, she would never be present to play her part as a responsible daughter or a caring sister. She did all the things required of her as an individual but didn't actively take initiative or go out of her way to help them or to do something extra for her family. And this is exactly what's wrong with so many of us. We often go to great lengths to please others and ourselves, but forget to give our families the importance they deserve.
Our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, "The best of you are the best to their families, and I am the best to my family." —Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3895.
Of course, this also targets all those people who are just plain disrespectful to their parents and family. They'd be known best for their manners and ikhlaaq in their social circle, but inside closed doors, it's a completely different story. Many a time, it isn't just pent up anger. It's the arrogance of knowing more than your parents, or any other member of the family, it's being egotistical and not accepting anyone else correcting or pointing out your mistake, it's preferring outer company over your own loved ones.
Being kind to your family means being kind with your words and being kind with your actions. Being kind means fulfilling the role you have in their life as a daughter or son, sister or brother, wife or husband, mother or father, while being gentle with your speech as well.
Kindness means being present in each other's lives to relieve the burdens of one another. It intends to soothe the worries of each other's minds, to cause the heartiest laughter rather than wistful longing for a happier time. Kindness is to play your role in achieving a happier time with the people who will stay tied to you for life. Your memories are going to be filled with them, not those who get to see the best side of you for only a few hours.
We shouldn’t lash out our anger, impatience, and intolerance at people who actually need us. Our 'me-time' shouldn't come at the expense of the time we should be spending with our loved ones. Rather, if anything, our time to focus on ourselves should come in the time we spend wasting so much energy building artificial relationships. It might seem that these temporary relationships are vital for our survival (hence when they break, we go into a turmoil of despair). However, in reality, the relationships that are truly vital to us make all the difference in the world in times of need. That is, in fact, what our values teach us: a strong familial bonding can help us overcome any harsh situation. Because these are the people who will always be there with us at the end of the day.
Zainab Waseem is an in-house author at Perspective.