“No one has ever become poor by giving,” Anne Frank wrote. Yet, when I read the history books or gaze at the outer world, I notice an utter lack of kindness in humanity. There is a lack of generosity of spirit. Far too many people are focused only on themselves, their own wants and needs, the safety and security and well-being of their own tribe.
If you watched the Presidential election, you were stunned by the utter lack of kindness by Donald Trump. Yet, ordinary Americans overwhelmingly elected him to become the next president. And so, I argue that kindness is not one of the values nor virtues many Americans admire.
In my own experience here in Canada, I witness the utter lack of kindness among strangers. I observe way to many people lost in thought or self-absorbed about their own lives, and in behaving in this manner they fail to be kind to others.
You only have to drive your car at rush hour to experience the madness of the commute.
When mum declined and died in hospital, I witnessed first hand the indifference of healthcare workers.
Whenever strolling downtown, I observe countless people ignoring the homeless plea for pocket change.
Watch the news on television, and all you see are the evils of humanity, such as terrorism, war, murder. You’d think that we have learned how to be civil by studying history. But we haven’t.
Watch a film at the theatre, and you quickly discovered how these elements are often glorified or key features of the Hollywood narrative. Witnessing the lack of kindness on the big screen socializes us to become indifferent to the obligation to behave in a kind way towards others, whether friend or stranger.
The antithesis of kindness is cruelty, nastiness, and selfishness—or thinking only of one’s self.
Imagine what kind of world we’d inhabit if everyone was nasty, cruel,brutish, selfish? It would be hell on earth.
kindness is not a “quid pro quo endeavour.” The person who believes in and lives the virtue of kindness expects nothing in return.
One could argue that kindness is an act of altruism.
Kindness is certainly a selfless act of generosity, generosity of spirit.
The easiest way to make kindness part of your life is to practice ” random acts of kindness.” Essentially, each day, you make a point of being kind in some small way to another person.
These random acts can be expressed in several ways: Giving of your time, such as volunteering. Giving of your presence, such as visiting an elderly parent. Giving someone less fortunate your money or food or possessions, perhaps pocket change to the homeless man on the street. Being courteous, (something I have been working on) to everyone, whether they deserve it or not. Interacting with a warm, accepting heart, not with nastiness or cruelty or selfishness. Not being indifferent to the plight of others. ( not easy to do when you are burdened with your own despair.)
We can learn to embrace kindness by acknowledging that it’s an endeavour we value, just like we have learned to value non-violence when there is conflict: we ought not kill, commit sexual assault, punch another person in the face….
Another way to inject kindness into the soul is by being compassionate. When someone is in need, we come to their aid, with the intention of eliminating or minimizing their suffering.
The person who is living their faith embodies kindness to both people and animals. True kindness is not strictly helping or being generous to one’s own tribe.
The person who values kindness for the sake of humanity believes it must be a universal spiritual practise—without exception.
The Dalai Lama said, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
Proverbs 3:3 of the Holy bible states, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck; Write them on the tablet of your heart.”
Sometimes, it’s not easy to determine if a person lacks kindness. They say all the right things, such as please and thank you. They hold the door open for others. They wait their turn while driving during rush hour. They give their pocket change to the homeless man on the street…Yet, they have still not learned what it means to be kind.
One of the easiest ways to determine whether a person embodies kindness is to observe them interacting with their pets. Any man or woman who is cruel to their cat or dog lacks kindness.
Kindness also requires that we stop blaming or finger pointing. When you are filled with resentment or anger, the soul is poisoned, and we are unable to be genuinely kind to others.This mind-set , triggered by our hostile emotions creates obstacles, which make it more difficult to be kind. The Buddhists have it right when they tell us to ” let it be” and “let it go.”
Unfortunately, kindness is a spiritual practise that seems to be in decline. We can blame Western culture, the business ethic of rugged individualism, the capitalist notion of maximizing profits at any cost, and the decline of religion as a spiritual force that can nurture kindness.