This is a reprint from the Asheville Daily Planet
Originally written on 04 March 2008
Do we take kindness for granted? It seems that kindness does not get the recognition that it deserves — that is, until we experience an unkind action from someone else, and then we realize that they were not being kind.
With all the pain and suffering that is afflicting our world, it sometimes is difficult to see the small acts of kindness that we might encounter from day to day. In fact, the kind acts that we experience might seem all too small compared to the looming problems that are happening everywhere. And because the suffering seems so much larger than the gentle but powerful acts of kindness, they oftentimes get taken for granted or put into the “that’s nice” category.
But what if we did not have these kindnesses in our life? What would it be like living in the world without kindness?
It would be a world in which everyone is out for himself or herself. And yes, we can certainly see pockets of that in many situations and places; but overall, kindness is still very strong in the world today. Kindness is not just in small pockets here and there, it can be seen everywhere. Kindnesses are the acts that we all do for someone else just to be nice, without any gain or any benefit.
This came up for me the other day when I was merging onto the highway. The car that was in the lane that I was merging into was apparently not noticing the other lane that was open and available for it to move over into so that I could gracefully enter. Instead, I almost had to stop my car and wait for it to move on.
After this incident, I thought about all of the wonderful and kind people whom I come in contact with on a daily basis — not only the kind drivers who move over to let someone on the highway, but the kind people I encounter in all the public places that I go to, and the kindness that I experience from family, friends and clients.
Probably most of us can say that we experience a lot of kindness in our life. Kindness is one of those few virtues that every religion agrees upon. The Dalai Lama values kindness to such a large degree that he says, “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
If kindness became the focus, and not religious or political differences, we could begin to find solutions to the many problems that we do have in the world. Many of these problems stem from desire for personal gain, which is the opposite of kindness.
You might think that what I have said sounds naive because some believe that we are all out for our own personal gain. Maybe so — but we can nevertheless live life from a place of consideration of others, while still taking care of ourselves.
I also believe that the more kind that we are in life, the more that will affect and motivate others in kindness. I experience this on a small level when I am kind to someone who had no interest in being kind first, but will respond back with kindness.
We should never underestimate the power of kindness.
I am not just talking about “acting” kind; I am talking about living from kindness. When we live in kindness, we tend to see the bigger picture of the outcome of our decisions, and not from the point of view of what we can gain in our decision.
Today is a good day to acknowledge the kindness that is everywhere around us in the world. We can grow kindness to such a large degree that it becomes blatantly obvious when we are not acting from kindness.
So let’s appreciate it, and live more from that kind place, so that those of us who still believe in the power of kindness do not have to take our “rose-colored glasses” off.