No, really, you first
I think it’s a good time – no, perhaps the best time – for some compassion towards others. There are a lot of angry hate-filled words being tossed about and it saddens me that this is what our populace has to say to one another. Perhaps I may consider one side to be more correct than the other, but as with all opinions, everyone is entitled to their own; it is not for me – or anyone else, for that matter – to say what another has to believe.
Treat another with kindness and compassion and you benefit from it: Your health improves; your frame of mind improves; you are generally happier and more calm; your body releases feel good hormones and those that actually improve your cardiovascular health; kindness actually reducing the signs of aging. Committing acts of kindness and compassion, it may seem, is not completely selfless. But in the end, if all players involved benefit, it’s a GOOD thing, right, that we get some merits from the positive actions. Win, win, I’d say.
Humans have a knack for being mean to one another. Which is odd, frankly, because we are actually built to be nice. Well, to be more exact, to be nice, AND we also want to be nice to those who will be kind in return AND we want our acts of compassion to be noticed. So, I guess that actually boils down to we are built to be nice so that others will be nice to us. That IS what we tell our children, right? Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. Share your toys. Share your space. Place nicely. Don’t throw things. Be fair. Sound familiar? Maybe we need to reiterate these same messages to big people, too, not just our kids.
Why aren’t we (big people) playing nicely? Why are we not able to mute the buzz of angry words we hear in our own head to be able to listen to the words our neighbors are saying? Why can we not share the limelight? Why can we not agree to disagree? It isn’t because we don’t know better, that’s for sure. We know that kindness attracts kindness; there are all sorts of trite sayings about how much more effective honey/sweetness/sugar is at attracting good things than vinegar. You know what I think? People don’t want to be compassionate. They would much rather be right. The kicker is, though: you just can’t be right all of the time. Sometimes, others will be, and that is okay. That’s a lot of pressure on you, no? I mean, who wants to be right all of the time?
I get it. It’s easy to keep your head down, look for the easy charity box, tick the ‘donate $1’ box on the receipt. It’s easy to avoid the eyes of those on the street begging for your extra coins. It’s easy to be angry at the man with the microphone because he has made erroneous assumptions and enjoys being amplified. What’s hard is noticing: what can YOU do? What difference can YOU make? All it takes is a simple act of noticing, of looking what hole you might be able to fill, or what benefit you might be able to provide. It doesn’t have to be anything big or costly; just open your eyes and notice what you can do.
As I have said on this site multiple times: kindness breeds kindness. Focusing on good will bring more of it. It’s a matter of someone being the bigger person, taking the deep breath, and being the kind-word-sayer first. That’s a hard first step, especially when the person across from you just keeps throwing ugly word after ugly word. We’ve had enough ugly words already; someone needs to be the adult in the room, and be nice. Say one kind thing.
What is kindness and what is compassion, you might ask. Depending on where you look, you’ll find different definitions, but generally, kindness is a willingness to whole-heartedly celebrate someone else’s successes, regardless of the relation to you and yours. Kindness is deliberately and openly being happy for another, taking actions to help if necessary. If we take it one step farther, and not only the ability to feel for other living things, to feel the suffering they may be enduring, and also to act on it, and try to diminish their suffering, then we have compassion. Compassion is an inner experience, one that includes relating to another’s experiences, and a wish to relieve the suffering we might see. Kindness and compassion are both considered to be skills you can strengthen, much like a muscle, with exercises and practice.
Compassion and kindness are deliberate feelings and actions you take to connect to those around you. Our interconnectedness is one of the traits of humanity, proving that we are, indeed, more developed than the rest of the animals on this beautiful planet. We see people smile, and we smile in return. We see people crying or hurting and we want to cry with them. We humans like unity and value social connections, we instinctively strive to create communities, and depend on others in many ways. This ability to feel compassion and kindness is our superhero skill, one that we should use often and with abandon.
Listen, I know it may seem as though people have a tendency to mess things up. Often it boils down to beliefs and how unalike they seem compared to you and yours. It’s come to the point where people use religion as a fault-line; abusing something as sacrosanct as one’s beliefs as a reason for abuse of others. Or they use languages spoken as a line drawn in the sand. Or for any other seemingly molehill-turned-into-a-mountain sort of a reason, and suddenly, instead of listening to the bottom line – do unto others as you would have done unto you – and keeping their heart open or their head down, suddenly thoughts are reeling faster and faster, until they just explode. Generally, explosions are not good things. Generally, good things – puppies, fuzzy slippers, peace of mind, faith in others – should not connected to abhorrent actions, and yet the lines are getting more and more blurry.
Another way to look at this: Once the sad sad day of your passing has come, and people are talking about you, reminiscing about their time with you, and about your interactions. Would you rather they say, ‘Yes, he was right often. If you needed a correct answer, he was your guy.’ Or would you rather you hear about your acts of kindness and compassion and how many different ways you may have positively impacted others. I know which I choose, 100% of the time.
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