“My religion is kindness”Dalai Lama
“If you think that you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”Dalai Lama
The quality of being friendly, generous and considerateDictionary definition of kindness
Is being kind easy? I suspect that most of us might answer-sometimes. When all is going swimmingly in our lives, performing acts, both small and large, of generosity and consideration may flow seamlessly from us. However, when we are harried, stressed, exhausted and being treated unkindly ourselves, the well can feel very dry. Being kind becomes another demand on our time and emotional energy. I remember as an intern, getting feedback that the front desk staff did not find me very friendly. My initial reaction was one of righteous indignation and anger. I was sleep-deprived and exhausted. Never in my life had I been told that I was unfriendly! On cooler reflection, however, I realized that instead of offering a face and demeanor of fatigue and misery, a smile and a friendly hello would have cost me nothing, and would have brightened everyone’s day, including my own. As the Dalai Lama so aptly says above, any action, however small, can make a difference.
Pierro Ferrucci in his book, the power of kindness, describes kindness not as an add-on or afterthought, but as a state of being. He distinguishes what he calls true kindness, that comes the heart, from fake kindness such as self-serving politeness, scheming generosity, or superficial manners. He also warns of a kind of false kindness, that contrives to hide the inner repressed rage of a wounded heart.
In so many ways, on a daily basis, we weave kindness into our lives, not as a transactional activity, but because it feels right. Bill Taylor, Co-founder of Fast Company tells a wonderful story about his father, where kindness persuaded an unwavering Cadillac aficionado to switch to a Buick. In a world driven by greed, small acts of connection and compassion were the x factor that created the best ROI. Yet, living in a world that seems to be in constant upheaval do we sometimes need to be reminded of the universal influence of kindness?
What stands in the way of kindness?
The usual culprits of time, distractions, exhaustion drain our emotional reserves. We also may harbor mindsets of fear and worry that block a kindness reboot. For example, fear that we will appear weak or naïve and worry that our kindness will be misinterpreted. In addition, our judging minds may have so many criteria for deciding who is deserving of kindness, that very few may seem worthy. Healthcare settings, which may be settings of great kindness, can also unfortunately be rife with unkindness, bullying and disrespect. Healthcare professionals are at risk for “altruistic martyrdom”, described by Thupten Jinpa in his book, A Fearless Heart. Compassion and kindness that is for only for others to the exclusion of self, offer an unhealthy recipe for depression and burnout. No one thrives in environments such as these. Yet, despite the systemic changes that are urgently needed, the courageous power of one should never be underestimated or dismissed. Even the smallest acts of generosity, trust, patience empathy, warmth and forgiveness shine a light on the healing power of kindness.
In the words of Aldous Huxley, esteemed writer, philosopher and mystic, from a lecture towards the end of his life:
“People often ask me what is the most effective technique for transforming their life. It is a little embarrassing that after years and years of research and experimentation, I have to say that the best answer is-just be a little kinder.”