“Three things in human life are important:
the first is to be kind;
the second is to be kind;
and the third is to be kind.”
~ Henry James
What does it mean to be kind? Often kindness is confused with compassion, but there is a difference. Kindness is simply being friendly to a person whether they are suffering of not. Compassion is reaching out to someone who is suffering.
When I read Toni Bernhard’s book, How to Wake Up, (and later an article she wrote about kindness) I was touched by what she calls “friendliness practice”.
She describes it like this, “As I turn the front doorknob to leave my house, I consciously resolve to maintain an attitude of friendliness toward all the strangers I see…If I’m waiting in line, I look at each person around me and silently say to each one: ‘May you enjoy this day’; or ‘I hope you have fun today.’”
I have tried to do this practice and have found that it lifts my heart, simply sending loving kindness to those around me fills me with joy.
I find it so fulfilling to see the joy on a stranger’s face when I am nice to them, whether it’s a complement or simply saying having a small conversation, kindness can make your day so much more joyful.
However, there are times when I find myself automatically judging people I don’t even know. For example, recently we were riding in a “questionable” part of town and were suddenly stuck because someone pulled out in front of everyone, just to go from one convenience store to another on the opposite side of the street. The man was driving a new Cadillac that was all tricked out, and when he smiled you could see gold teeth. We both automatically thought, drug dealer. We knew nothing about this man except what we saw on the outside, yet we found ourselves judging him. This is something most of us do, and I’m sure I’ll do it again, but I’m trying to be kinder. When I find myself having these judgments I’m trying to follow Toni’s example and silently say something kind to this person anyway. Just as Toni said, I found that this action normally stops the judgment…but sometimes it doesn’t, it’s at those times I need to be kind to myself and continue to try my best.
“Kindness is within our power even when fondness is not.” ~ Samuel Johnson
I’m certain that no one is fond of everyone, but being kind to someone doesn’t mean we have to like the person. In this day of political tensions, prejudice, racism….I know I have never been surrounded by so much hate. The Buddha taught, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, only by non-hatred.” We can “not hate” someone without liking them. When you don’t hate it’s much easier to be kind.
It has pained me to find out that some of my ‘friends’ have such differing views than I have, many of these views are, in my opinion, unethical and morally wrong. Because of the extreme differences in our views, and often the venom that I hear spoken by others voicing their opinions, I’m finding that I don’t really like many of these people any more, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be kind to them. I try to find what we have in common, I think we all want to be happy and to stop suffering, when I look at someone in that light, I find it much easier to be kind. I don’t have to agree with someone to be kind. That doesn’t mean I’m okay with their views, it means I can be nice to them, that’s a lot more than I sometimes think I can do, but let’s face it, being kind to someone feels a whole lot better than hating them, hatred makes me feel really bad.
That brings me to this quote:
“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” ~ Eric Hoffer
The more often you are kind, the more natural it will become. Kindness becomes a habit and it grows within you, by being kind to others, you are in turn, kind to yourself.
** I hope you enjoyed this different take on Mindfulness Monday, be sure to remember to be kind to yourself.
I highly recommend Toni Bernard’s books, especially “How To Be Sick; A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers”. This book changed literally my life, and I refer back to it over and over. If you, or someone you know, is dealing with chronic illness, do yourself a favor and check this book out. (This is completely my opinion, no one asked me to post this, and I’m not being compensated for it. I simply love this book.)
(image created by Wendy Holcombe using Autodesk Sketchbook, please to not use without permission)