One of the political commentators, this Autumn, coined the phrase, “Empathy Deficit Disorder”. (I wish I could have been the person who came up with that line.) Moments after I read the phrase, a wave of pity washed over my thoughts. How awful that a person cannot feel or demonstrate empathy. Worse yet, to be a politician who wishes to remain in office. She or he must pander to the most selfish, self-centered urges of society. I wouldn’t wish such a depraved state of mind upon any of my antagonists.
I debated with myself whether or not to write down my thoughts about kindness, yet again. I make mention of it from time to time in this blog, so I don’t want to seem like a Pollyanna, who only wears rose-colored glasses. I’m a pragmatic realist. I know there are people who practice and espouse self-centered lifestyles. There is cruelty, hatred, and apathy in full bloom in the United States and around the Earth. So, on second thought, it seems to me, that I cannot write too much about kindness. We need to practice it and espouse it, individually and as a society. Empathy Deficit Disorder is a horrid thing to have.
I remember seeing a film clip about the Dalai Lama’s visit to Seattle, Washington in 1979. The University of Washington auditorium was standing room only. Just a few moments into His Holiness’ introductory lecture about world peace, he was interrupted by a group of Maoist demonstrators waving copies of Mao’s Red Book. They chanted “Death to the Dalai Lama”. His Holiness walked to center stage and leaned over to listen with concern. The entire audience was shocked into silence by this overt act of kindness by the Dalai Lama. The protesters were led out of the venue by security. At this point, His Holiness said, “This is why we need to discuss world peace.” The Dalai Lama had just demonstrated that he practices what he preaches. He has often said, “My religion is kindness.”
People tend to believe that living with a good heart and performing the practice of kindness are not enough to overcome prejudice, hatred, and violence. However, some of us think that if enough people understand that the pursuit of monetary gain and self-centered interests will not bring about personal joy or global well-being, the ills of the world will diminish.
Living a life of kindness and practicing kindness are not just nice things to do that will give us “warm fuzzy” feelings. Practicing kindness is an absolute necessity for the survival of the human race and every living thing around us.
Empathy Deficit Disorder must be recognized for the harm it causes to the person who suffers from it and to the world at large. One of the best antidotes for Empathy Deficit Disorder is kindness. This remedy must be administered in regular, effective doses by the sufferer and those around her or him.
Altruism doesn’t get much press, these days. Thankfully, there are many, many people who have placed altruistic kindness at the heart of their lives. Altruism is the concern for, and the working for the well-being of others. Altruism, mainstreamed, is the most powerful antidote for our present national and world conditions.
Ironically, altruism, or true kindness, is a selfish, albeit a positive, constructive attribute. By acting with sincere kindness, individuals increase their own well-being and happiness in profound ways. True concern for others brings about symptoms of personal pleasantness, tenderness, plus inner calmness and satisfaction.
Altruism and kindness have been valued by most religions and cultures for many centuries. I’m reminded of the “Random Acts of Kindness” movement that has become popular the past several years. People have discovered that doing favors for others make the receivers and the givers very happy. It’s a win-win situation.
There is no single religion that can lay claim to kindness. The urge to be helpful is innate, because, instinctively, we are social animals. People who are deeply religious and people who are agnostic or atheist have discovered and regularly practice sincere kindness. In times of trouble or great need, people from all walks of life have allowed their altruistic drives to come to fruition. There are many examples of people making the supreme sacrifice of their own well-being and lives in order to help others. In my opinion, this is not an expression of belief, it is a manifestation of inner nature.
Since the Dalai Lama does not try to convert people to Buddhism nor browbeat people into moralistic beliefs, I think it’s safe to include a short passage of his, that summarizes what altruism and kindness are all about.
“One of the basic points is kindness. With kindness, with love and compassion, with his feeling that is the essence of brotherhood, sisterhood, one will have inner peace. This compassionate feeling is the basis of inner peace.”
I hope you can enjoy a happy and fulfilling World Kindness Day today, and every day.
The Blue Jay of Happiness notes there are organizations that have kindness at the center of their stated purpose. One of them is: http://worldkindness.org/