“Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.” Leo Tolstoy
Like so many character traits that were highly valued even 50 years ago, the virtue of kindness seems to have plunged along with so many other character traits that separate humans from all other species. Traits like humility, generosity, integrity, and honesty have held the civilized world together and if they disappear where are we?
I am fortunate. Although faced with early childhood trauma, I was adopted by the one of the wisest and kindest women ever to appear in my world. She taught me kindness. Not by lecture or advice, but by her kind words and actions to other people at all times which I try to emulate today.
A Night of No Kindness
I watched Night 2 of the Democratic debates a couple of days ago. Like most people I am a political centrist, analyzing good and bad on both sides. I don’t mean to offend, but I viewed the so-called debates (with exceptions) as a despicable means to desecrate Joe Biden and, to a degree, Kamala Harris.
Very real issues facing our country were rarely even discussed (mentioned but not discussed). Instead it was 2 ½ hours of vitriol and blame and accusations. And no one seems to be contrite as if this the way of politics in America so get used to it!
I really care little of the political maneuverings, but the real problem is it trickles down. Down to the media and then to the everyday listener. The danger is that such speech and actions can easily, over time, become the norm. When that happens, God help us. Literally.
Move Over to Let Kindness In
It was about a decade (or more) ago that I determined one of my most highly regarded goals in life was quite simple: To Help People Feel Better About Themselves. All that was involved in that goal was simply Be Nice. Compliment. Encourage. Empathize. And help when possible.
Even to the people you see as jerks. Carl Sagan wrote, “You should respond with kindness toward evil done to you, and you will destroy in an evil person that pleasure which he derives from evil.”
Every, Every Day Let Kindness Roll
When my marriage was stuck in the mud of lack of understanding and regular bickering, it was quite difficult to take it—for both Pam and me. We even talked about the possibility that marriage was not right for us—just very briefly.
Then on one of our retreats I asked my wife what I could do differently to help make our marriage better. Her response came with little thought but deep emotion: “Honey, maybe if you were just a little nicer.”
So I tried. I would withhold anger. Speak to her kindly and respectably, and not bring it up every time I was bothered by something. I attempted to practice at home what I lived by daily with everyone else. And you know, it worked. It really worked. Not only did I become kinder but in feeling more secure and more loved she also found the space to be kinder and more understanding herself.
I implore you. Beg you. Don’t do as the media and the vapid political examples but follow the lives of the people that really make a difference in the world. You just can’t beat kindness, love and empathy.
What the World Needs: More Kindness
Photo courtesy of ipopba at istockphoto