Kindness. “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” Author Unknown.
My mother always emphasized kindness in everything one does. Seems like a small and rather insignificant thing, but now, in my senior years, I realize the great value and treasures contained in this small and “lightweight” word, kindness. The action and the performance of kindness rivals Solomon’s famed wealth. I’ll tell you why – it serves as the foundation for a myriad of other positive qualities, and affords a sense of openness and communication from which flows the opportunity for qualities like honesty, forgiveness, warmth, gratitude, patience, loyalty and other qualities that can emerge more freely within the foundation of kindness.
Here are a few examples that may have you giving kindness a little more respect.
Honesty. Honesty can be embarrassing, uncomfortable and difficult. The trade off (lying) can be more stressful. One reason is that lying is based in fear, which makes for many difficulties and complications in life, like inventing the appropriate lie, and feeling anxious lest we are found out. Researchers have performed brain scans that show when we lie, our brain conducts a series of operations that are needless. When we tell the truth it is effortless to the brain. In short, the brain tells the truth by default, we are programmed to be sincere (Ferrucci, 2006). Honesty is harmonious with kindness in its most basic of forms. Just like dishonesty, insincere kindness is a pollutant. If you are not living in truth, your communication with others is muddied. The world of lies is fantasy. Honesty and kindness, by their simple make up, cannot exist in a world of “masks and phantoms”.
Forgiveness. In a recent experiment subjects were told to remember two experiences of duplicity, the betrayal of a parent and the betrayal of a partner. During these remembrances they were connected to machines that could detect evidence of stress (blood pressure, heartbeat, muscle tension). The findings revealed that there were two categories of forgivers, high and low. Low forgivers had higher measurements of stress and high forgivers had fewer health problems. Another study showed that those who forgive have better physical health and suffer less from anxiety and depression. That need for justice and revenge hang on to us and make us sick. It is like injecting ourselves with a daily dose of poison. Researchers concluded that forgiveness promotes physical and mental health. Radical transformations have occurred as a result of forgiveness. Sometimes when we remove ourselves from the hurt that is impossible to forgive, we may be able to open the door to forgiveness. Seeing from another vantage point may be the key. Going to that place where we realize all that is dear to us, all that makes us content, happy and serene, can give us the vantage point we need to give us the new perspective, new eyes to see how that experience may just have made us a better and stronger person. In that place of wholeness we discover that forgiveness is already there, and becomes easier than we thought. That’s the same thing with kindness. We don’t have to do anything to be kind, because kind is already there. We just have to give ourselves permission.
Patience. There is a story of some scientists who wanted to do studies of a place in Mexico that was nearly inaccessible. They hired a group of Mexican carriers who were used to the terrain and had accomplished this many times before. The pace was quick and sure, they were covering a lot of ground. Then, all of a sudden, the carriers stopped. The scientists were surprised and then as time went on, the scientists were impatient, frustrated, and finally angry. The big stop was seen by them as a huge waste of time. Just as quickly, the entire group of carriers started moving again. When asked one of the carriers said, that because the pace was so fast, they had to stop to “wait for their souls.” Have you been moving so fast that you have left your soul behind? Ferrucci (2006) says that patience is the ability to face without fear the incessant flow of time. We need to perceive, in our routines, the pleasant surprise of timelessness. You may achieve this by practicing, say, meditation or mindfulness. If we really get to the bottom of these rushed and impatient feelings, we may even discover that we are running because of our fear of death. Get it done now, get to this first, attain all these titles, must be first in the race, buy this now, before we leave the planet. If we can rid ourselves of these incessant needs to be in a constant state of hurry, people and things will no longer appear to us as obstacles. When we get rid of our urgency to earn more, take more, get there first, we will feel kinder toward others and accept them as human beings. We will not “leave our souls behind”.
I think I’d like to stop at this point, and tackle some other positive qualities later. Tell me what you think about this blog. I’d love to hear your input. Thanks be to the wisdom of His Holiness, The Dali Lama; Piero Ferrucci; Debbie Ford, and especially, His Holiness, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen for the insights that enabled me to write this.