Misconstrued kindness, not so much.
February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day. That’s kind of cool. And also sad.
We shouldn’t really need such a day. Being kind should be part of our daily experience. Not just for the benefit of others, but for our own benefit too.
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” ~ Lao Tzu
Spiritual teachers, psychologists, and social scientists tell us that being of service to others, expecting nothing in return, helps us feel happier.
Studies also tell us that kindness can improve our physical health, leading to a longer life. And it releases happy hormones – serotonin, and oxytocin – causing an improvement in our mental and emotional health too.
“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” ~ Og Mandino
So the jury is in — kindness is a win-win for all concerned. And the most significant advantage to all of this lies in its ease of accomplishing.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo Buscaglia
Remember to include yourself in your random acts of kindness practice.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” ~ not Buddha
Kindness is important. The world needs more of it. But let’s be clear about what it is — and what it isn’t.
Don’t confuse kindness with duty or sacrifice. Being kind to others doesn’t require us to deny our own needs. As the proverb goes, you can’t pour from an empty vessel.
“Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.” ~ Lama Yeshe
Duty is not something we can ignore just because we don’t want to fulfill it. And performing our duties — to our dependents, our employers, our clients — is not kindness.
Kindness is performed outside of duty, and always as a matter of choice.
“Be there for others, but never leave yourself behind.” ~ Dodinsky
Neither is sacrifice the same thing as kindness. Sacrifice is when we ignore our own needs because we’re so busy taking care of others. That isn’t a sustainable option.
And often, sacrifice doesn’t feel like we have a choice in the matter. We may feel manipulated or forced into something.
Sacrifice depletes us rather than nourishes us.
Kindness is always optional, and it strengthens us.
And the place to begin is right where we are — with ourselves. Because, with all positive habits, a strong inner foundation enables us to contribute more and better to the world around us.
And, as already mentioned, the world needs more kindness.
“Remember, there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” ~ Scott Adams