Kindness. It’s a no-brainer right? The Dalai Lama famously said, “My religion is kindness.” You only have to look at his sweet countenance to believe it. Ellen ends every show with: “Be kind to one another.” How many millions tune in to watch this brilliant funny lady? Kindness memes abound on social media sites.
It’s ridiculously easy. I uploaded one of my pics to an online meme generator, added a few pithy words and presto — fodder for Pinterest.
But for all the attention and celebrity endorsement given to an act of kindness, how good are we really, at being kind? Mymother once generously called me “courage in action.” I can return the favor by assigning her the title of Kindness in Motion. It was from her I first learned how to choose kindness over any other action; up to and including indifference. I tease my mother that she takes it too far sometimes. I’ll mutter “burnt toast” when she offers my father a bigger portion or when she literally takes the darker piece of toast. She shrugs and says, “I don’t care.” Kindness isn’t just what she does, it’s who she is.
When I was getting married many eons ago she advised me to always “be kind” to my husband. Not subservient, not obsequious; just plain kind. I remembered that years later when he came home from work, spent and beaten down by the stress of an abusive boss. He asked me if he could quit. We had just been relocated back to Toronto by the company I was working for and money was tight — to say the least. In the space of the two minutes that I stared at him in disbelief, I realized that I had the ultimate power. Scary, crazy power. And the last thought I had before I made my pronouncement was what courage it took for him to ask. So I had no choice. I replied, “Yes.”
As I watched him sag in relief and promise to look for a new job immediately, I learned a lot about the power of kindness. Our life was hard after that. He didn’t get a job for at least a year. But whenever my thoughts turned resentful, I remembered his face and the straightening of his back as his self-esteem returned after I uttered that one word: Yes!
Kindness is not a no-brainer. It is a constant choice — and like a muscle needs to be exercised. If you go into kindness without lofty expectations that some day the favor will be returned, don’t count on it. The person upon whom you are pouring your heartfelt words of beneficence may preen under your attention, or feel uplifted, but that doesn’t mean that they will be there when it’s your turn.
When you offer kindness to someone else, do it without one thought of, “What’s in it for me.” If you really get that and practice kindness with words and deeds selflessly, the universe will notice.
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor’s degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.