“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” – Henry James
It’s incredibly easy to be kind to people we like; in fact, it comes naturally. You greet friends with a smile, a warm hug, perhaps a kiss on the cheek. It’s also pretty easy to be kind to people you don’t know; it can be as simple as holding a door open for them, letting someone merge into traffic ahead of you, or nodding and smiling to strangers as you pass on the street.
What about being kind to people you don’t like? What about being kind to people who are unkind to you? What about being kind to people are are angry, violent or aggressively unpleasant? Is there value in being kind to those people? That’s the topic in this, the sixth and final installment (for now) in my series on the Six Medicines of Bodhichristo, with our first installment being about living for today, our second installment being about not allowing anger to control your life, our third being about the importance of not giving in to constant worry our fourth talking about the importance of having an attitude of gratitude, and our fifth about the value of hard work.
We all have people in our lives who make it difficult to be kind. It might be a boss or co-worker, a teenaged child, a parent or perhaps even a spouse – the possibilities are basically limitless – but it doesn’t matter. It’s important to think of kindness not as a trophy you bestow on those who have earned it, but rather like a gift you give to all. A great example of this from my Christian upbringing is the grace extended to us through the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, a grace that is not deserved yet is given freely. Jesus gave the gift of grace to even the most undeserving, including the hated tax collectors and, most remarkably, those who killed him on the cross. According to the New Testament story, his very last words were to ask forgiveness for those who murdered him.
Think about that for a second. By all accounts Jesus died the most brutal death ever imagined, whipped and crowned with thorns, hands and feet nailed to a cross, a wound gashed in his side by a sword and left to bleed to death in the hot African sun. His last words were an act of profound kindness towards the people who treated him so brutally. Given that example, whom can I not forgive? To whom can I not show kindness?
One thing I know from extreme first-hand experience about people who are generally unkind is that they lack inner peace. They are in a fairly constant state of turmoil, mostly self-inflicted, and are not acting out of a position of self-control, but rather from a position of mental chaos. I, myself, do not live in such a state. I have pursued and have been granted a peaceful state of mind. I have learned not to answer anger with anger (OK, most of the time), for all that does is make bad situations worse. I have learned to smile inwardly when someone is in chaos and inflicting that chaos upon me because I know that I am not in chaos and I can therefore have mercy, extend grace, be kind to them by not engaging. I can smile, I can laugh, or I can even remain silent and just let go of the need to respond at all.
“No response is a response. And it’s a powerful one. Remember that.” – Anonymous
My daughter, nine, is also faced with situations where someone is unreasonably angry and out of control. I am teaching her to weather these storms with a more recent story about a powerful girl who learns not to give in to anger, but to answer such situations with a peaceful kindness. She imagines Rey Skywalker, using The Force to float in air among trees and think “Be with me” as she imagines Jedi heroes lending her strength while John Williams’ Jedi theme music plays in the background of her mind.
I find the Jedi theme to be extremely useful in calming myself when the world around me is in turmoil. (Seriously! Try it! Click this link!)
Kindness is truly a super power, and I firmly believe it can save the world. It can certainly save the soul. try showing kindness the next time someone is rude. Try smiling, wishing them a nice day, or maybe just letting silence and your own peace permeate your being. I promise it will make a difference. If you make it a habit you will find that those people who use to really bother you with their unkind energy no longer penetrate your armor of peacefulness.
May The Force Be With You