This book was a breath of fresh air. I highly recommend The Kindness Revolution if you’re trying to understand how we can pull ourselves out of the pit of depression and anxiety many of us find ourselves thrust into on a regular basis.
It’s easy to read and full of fascinating insights into resilience, loneliness and happiness. It also lays out practical ways to find our way back to a hopeful, trusting and optimistic community mindset through kindness.
Taking the smooth with the rough
Written well into the pandemic and published in May 2021, Hugh Mackay takes a distinctly Australian look at what’s been getting us down, from the 2019-20 bushfires through to ‘lockdown, physical distancing, school closures, people working from home, widespread unemployment, states closing their borders, massive increases in national debt and the collapse of many businesses.’
In short, it’s not been a particularly happy year or two.
While fully acknowledging the trauma many people have experienced, Mackay offers perspective on ‘taking the rough with the smooth’. Chapters end with a helpful summary of the key points which we can implement in our own lives. Here are his tips for taking the rough with the smooth:
1. Accept that you can’t control life’s seasons.
2. Stop wishing for things to stay the same.
3. Stop wishing for things to be different.
4. Above all, remember that your own struggles are part of the human struggle, shared by everyone you meet.
We were born to cooperate, not to compete
I loved this chapter so much. Mackay approaches the issue of cooperation vs competition from both a personal and political level.
He points to the Republic of Ireland as a great example of how opposing political parties can work together ‘to develop a draft program for government – a comprehensive, long-term plan for the nation, covering twenty-two policy areas ranging from the economy and taxation to transport, business, gender, education, healthcare, climate and so on.’
Community and cooperation has never in my lifetime been so clearly important as during the past 18 months. We’re not meant to be alone, we’re meant to work together.
On the adversarial nature of our own political system (and those of most other western nations, I might add), Mackay professes a sort of fatalistic optimism:
The present system is so creaky, so inefficient and so unpleasant to watch in action that change will eventually come. And when it does, one way or another, it will be in favour of a more cooperative, collaborative process that takes much of the time-wasting adversarial sting out of politics.
I do very much hope he’s right.
On a personal level: Listen
So simple, right? If you want to be a kinder person just… listen. Mackay argues that ‘Everyone’s deepest need is to be heard.’ Interestingly, he wraps up forgiveness with listening. The old adage that you should never apologise or you’ll look weak? Forget that. Here are Mackay’s top tips:
1. Say less; listen more.
2. Listen to the whole person, not just the words.
3. Apologise more freely (‘to fail to apologise is, quite simply, arrogant and insulting’).
4. Forgive more generously.
5. Assume that everyone you meet needs to be heard (people ‘thrive on your undivided attention’).
Cynicism and indifference mock kindness
This chapter totally blew my mind and I’d recommend buying the book just for this if you tend to become cynical under pressure or stress. Step by step, Mackay tracks how a cynical attitude can single-handedly undermine optimism and hope and shake the foundations of communities, including workplaces.
The best weapons against cynicism (your own as well as others’) is kindness and hope.
We don’t need religion to have values
You could alternatively argue that it doesn’t matter which religion you choose as they’re all based on the fundamental teachings of faith, hope and kindness.
If you’re searching for a moral framework that doesn’t start in a church, I recommend dipping into The Kindness Revolution. It provides plenty of food for thought, as well as actions we can take now to create a more hopeful, trusting and optimistic life.