It is one of the phrases widely used on social media, especially when something tragic trends: 'Be kind. You don't know what someone else is going through.'
Kindness gets preached when the emotional and psychological effects of cyber-bullying and outright nastiness have taken over.
Overused but rarely understood and put into practice. Also, do we have to wait for something terrible to happen to be kind?
Mental health practitioner Nthabiseng Lebina says being kind simply means: "Meet me at my reality."
"It is important to be empathetic and understanding towards what the other person is going through and showing kindness includes accepting their reality as they share it. When someone needs kindness, it means validating their feelings and experiences without dictating how they must experience a situation and feel about it," Nthabiseng says.
She adds that you consider how they feel when you are kind to someone, which helps protect their identity and whatever struggle they might be battling.
Unfortunately, we see belittling, judgment and scrutiny all the time. People easily invalidate and dismiss other people's lived experiences on social media.
READ MORE | Social media can crush your self-esteem
She explains: "Being kind to another means making them feel that their feelings and experiences are valid without making them feel rejected. It means to support me. It is not always that you will agree with some of a person's decisions when dealing with a situation. To show them kindness means supporting their choices and being with them through it all, regardless of how different you would have handled the situation."
Everyone is going through something.
"We are all fighting for survival and defence of self-identity, and through kindness, we can understand how this is important and contribute towards this protection because once one's self-identify is protected, it gives them hope and motivation to overcome," she adds.
We have seen people battling depression on social media and sharing this vulnerable and sensitive part of their lives with the world. Some people also share how they want to "end it all" in some instances.
If you can't be kind and show compassion to someone who shares something so serious, what do you think will happen to them?
Nthabiseng says that the battle between sadness and depression has continued as people understand depression as an illness.
"Sadness and depression are used interchangeably. Another confusion is that sadness is the distinct symptom of depression as an illness. Hence some people fail to make or understand the difference between the two."
"The miseducation happens as people may be judgemental towards those with depression because they 'refuse' to snap out of it. It also makes the person with depression feel responsible and focus on attempts to improve their sad state but gets even more frustrated because they fail 'snap out of it'," Nthabiseng says.
Because you have not gone through something, it does not mean you can invalidate the experiences of those who have. Words are powerful, be careful how you use yours. The compassion you lack to show others is one you will need tomorrow. That is how life works!
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