It seems that I write something about kindness quite frequently on this blog. It’s something for which I don’t regret. There are too many instances of selfishness and cruelty, so kindness needs to be put out into the World in order to cancel the hatefulness.
His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama frequently shares this thought with others, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” At first hearing, many people might think this is just a trite, trivial soundbyte. However, if we pause a few moments, and replay the saying in our heads, we find an idea so profound in its simplicity.
“My religion is kindness.” That’s a religion that can be adopted, respected, and lived by people of the East and the West. It’s a religion that can be practiced in every nation on Earth. It’s a religion that can guide people who are devoutly religious in the traditional sense and by people who don’t follow religion. If you boil every wisdom tradition down to its essence, you will find kindness at its heart.
The religion of kindness needs no crusades, massive social institutions, nor coercion. In fact, kindness comes spontaneously from within. All one needs to do is let go of fear and self-centeredness then just allow it to happen.
A few years ago, while waiting for a flight out of the Omaha airport, I overheard a woman complaining about the state of her life. She said something that has stayed with me. “I’m not much, but I’m all that I think about.” At the time, I thought to myself, that she described why she was so miserable.
Judging by my own experience, those times when I think about myself the most are when I’m least happy; when I think about others, I feel more joyful. When these thoughts are translated into action, the amounts of dissatisfaction or satisfaction are magnified. Many of us stumble upon this relationship by accident. The most fortunate of us realized this early in life. In effect, when we are kind to others, we get a massive mental-spiritual payback. Being kind to other beings turns out to be very selfish. That type of selfishness is a good thing.
One must remember that good things must be practiced in moderation. What we may believe are good deeds may not be interpreted similarly by the recipients. In fact, the doer of good deeds can unconsciously become a do-gooder. Do-gooders are highly resented by society. Do-gooders live frustrated lives as they proselytize to those who do not hold similar opinions about life.
One should assertain what the other person truly wants or needs. Then, we should ask if the other person will accept this help from us or not. We then gracefully accept which ever reply we receive from the other person. This is a greater kindness. We can relate to this by thinking how children, perhaps oneself, learned about kindness and generosity.
The child feels moved to give his mom a birthday gift. He thinks that what makes him happy, will make his mom happy. So, he gives her a toy truck. The mom will probably accept the gift in good humor and feel endearment towards the son. If this sort of gift-giving continues through the years, mom will be less and less amused. It’s when the son realizes that understanding his mom’s wishes and needs are met, that she will be happy. Seeing the world through the eyes of others, or empathy, enables true kindness.
When the lesson about empathy is not learned well, a person will still judge others according to one’s own standards and point of view. I know a person who often says, “That’s not what I would do.” This filter seems to limit how this individual thinks and acts. This person is very nice and genuinely tries to help people in generous ways, but the blinkered type of compassion is a hinderance.
There seems to be some sort of magic about kindness. We might call it Karma. Whatever we think it is, we feel strong and empowered when we do something kind for another person. Often, kindness and good deeds come back to us. The truth is, folks just love to do things with and for positive, kind people. We attract the kindness of others by being kind to others. We are most kind to ourselves and others by not expecting rewards in return for our kindnesses. There is a caveat: Don’t become a doormat.
We can be mindful of our thoughts. Our thoughts lead to vocalized communication. Those words lead to action by oneself and those who hear us. Actions lead to character. Kind thoughts, even about our adversaries, ultimately leads to a character that is rich in kindness.
Remember to keep kind, humble thoughts about yourself, too. Kindness towards oneself and others lends integrity to our characters.