The power of kindness

I have been incredibly fortunate in where I have landed in the latest rendition of my work life. I work with a group of people that makes the work day a great deal of fun. My co-workers are people who I admire and consider as friends, and I still can’t get over my good fortune at having arrived where I am.

Having so often worked in situations where this was not the case, I find myself constantly watching the group dynamics and the individual interactions to try to discover the secret of what makes this group so different so I can do what I can to make sure the goodness lasts. I think there are several reasons why this group works so well—some that may be unique to this group, some that aren’t.

Part of the reason why this group has clicked as it has is that we are a new group of people who all started at about the same time. Only my boss and I had worked together prior to this, and we already had a good working relationship. None of us has any baggage with each other or with the team that needs to be dealt with, so we are starting with a clean slate. That helps!

Part of the reason why we get along so well is that we all come together around similar values. We pray together every morning. We share similar progressive Christian beliefs and values and a similar commitment to wanting to live out those values in our daily lives. I know that not every Christian institution or organization gets along this well—in fact, I’ve seen many very dysfunctional ones—but I do think that our common ground helps in this case.

These common values and interests mean that we have frequent enjoyable conversations and discussions that are outside of our immediate work issues. We talk about books and theology and church and art and music and food.

Part of the reason why we have so much fun is that we like to laugh. We tease one another (gently and kindly), we play silly (but harmless) pranks on one another, and we laugh a lot.

But the biggest reason I’ve noted for why it’s such a great way to be is the way we treat one another. Kindness seems to be the raison d’être there. Generosity (in gifts, praise, and expressions of gratitude) flows freely. Pride, competition, back-biting, and negative attitudes are things they just don’t seem to engage in. It probably helps that three out of the four of us (with me being the exception) are ordained ministers who have learned to live and work in community from their roles as pastors.  (My goal is to do my best to emulate them! They inspire me to bring my best behavior to work.)

I’ve noticed, though, that this kindness and generosity seems to create a positive spiral. Each person on the team responds to kindness that they are shown by expressing greater kindness to others, and it just keeps increasing. I’ve worked plenty of places where I’ve seen the opposite spiral in effect, so it’s been interesting to observe this one.

Of course, some of the nature of this group is dictated by its actual members, and it’s hard to imagine a greater bunch of people to be working with, but my observations have given me a great appreciation for the power of kindness. I believe it is more transformative that I’ve ever guessed. That’s why I made it one of my words for 2013. I want to spread more of this powerful goodness in the world around me.

Have you ever been part of a group or organization that really got along well? If so, what characteristics did you notice that made it a great place to be?

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

9 thoughts on “The power of kindness

  1. I just visited with co-workers of mine from a previous job – a group I always referred to as my office family rather than fellow employees. The nature of the job was quite stressful and I felt that instead of buckling under the pressure, we provided a safe haven for each of us to work within, although our personalities were very different. It was realizing we were all the same in our common experience that allowed us to see our self in the other and have compassion. It created a true bond 🙂

    • Stressful workplaces are no fun, and I’ve seen people in those situations turn on each other more often than I’ve seen them unified by it. I’m so delighted to hear a story of how you and your co-workers were able to recognize the commonality of your experience and come together in compassion for one another! I think there is truly a deep bond created between people who manage to work through difficult times like that together. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  2. That sounds like a wonderful atmosphere to work in, KJ! I’ve never experienced anything but lousy work environments but they were all jobs to pay for school. I’m unemployed right now but hope to find a job where the people are as kind as the ones you write about.

  3. Well, I’ve really felt like I was part of a “community of kindness” in some of the writers’ groups I have joined over the years.

    Unfortunately, writers’ groups can also be the most cut-throat, soul-crushing experiences you can have. I guess it just depends on the people and purpose (and how well the group is moderated).

    For instance, writing-for-fun groups seem to have a warm atmosphere, whereas writing-for-publication groups tends to be competitive and potentially mean-spirited.

    That being said, I love ALL writers. I just wouldn’t want to hang out with most of them, LOL 😀

    • I’ve found a similar pattern with writers’ groups! It definitely pays to take some caution in choosing a group to make sure they have that kindness in place before sharing one’s writing!

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