Wired For Kindness
“We are wired to be kind. It’s our deepest nature.” — Jaime Thurston
Can you recall a time someone was kind to you? Now, think of a time you were kind to another person? Call to mind their reaction and your response. Move into your heart and notice the feelings there. If you read no further than this point, you know that kindness affects the user and the experiencer; leaving a lasting impression. In this fast pace world, kindness and compassion take a back seat to selfies, self-interest and expendable human interactions.
Every person is waiting to be discovered or become rich, believing it holds the key to their happiness. Yet when they attain success, they long for their former life because they underestimated the trappings of fame and celebrity. I enjoy the quote by Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, David W. Orr, who writes: “The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
Kindness is fundamental to human existence. We are thrust into the world as newborn and enriched with the kindness of our parents’ nurturing for the following years. Humans are the only mammals with a prolonged gestation period. Other creatures rely on support for a brief time before becoming self-reliant. We are powerless at birth and depend on our caregivers to provide for our needs. Therefore, kindness is sewn into the framework of our DNA. We are literally wired for kindness. Though each individual has varied opinions on how to improve the world, very little people are willing to practise kindness. Does this resonate with you so far? Can you see that kindness is part of our genetic condition because we are wired to connect with others?
Do No Harm
“Make a habit of two things: to help; or at least to do no harm.” — Hippocrates
World peace will not arise from overthrowing dictatorial powers or ending conflicts between nations. It will happen when humanity raises its consciousness beyond that of fear and hatred. I’ve often repeated that Peace Is Only A Thought Away. Its motives emerge through kind thoughts towards oneself and others. Kindness is not something that demands hard work. It originates from the simple act of doing no harm to others. It involves judging less, however compelled you might be to do so. You see, the ego is quick to judge because it is victimised and hurt, so it tries to compete for its survival. Kindness, however, bites its tongue. It does not seek to be right, but to preserve peace of mind.
Here’s the thing: you gain little by giving someone a piece of your mind, other than inciting conflict and separation. For instance, the Lebanese-born poet Khalil Gibran wrote: “I have learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.” It might be clear to you that fighting force with force is not the way towards peace. But you might ask, does that mean allowing others to treat me unfairly? No, not by any means. Though you needn’t retaliate with overwhelming force. I’m not implying you become a doormat; however, I urge you to accept the lessons contained within the experience. For example, are you letting others treat you unfairly on some level? Or unconsciously giving them permission to do so?
The Benefits of Kindness
“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” — Barbara De Angelis
Kindness has many benefits, including increased happiness and a healthy heart. It slows down the ageing process and improves relationships and connections, which indirectly boosts your health. People believe kindness is particular to those of religious faith because of their moral vows. Kindness does not require you to be of religious faith or even spiritual. We observe demonstrations of kindness in man’s best friend, the dog. Cats show kindness and are treasured for their emotional connection. Kindness broadens your life’s frame of reference and is a symbol of respect to value the receiver.
It influences the giver more than the receiver and has correlations with enhanced mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Through the 1990s, the late Dr Masaru Emoto performed a series of experiments examining the natural effects of words, prayers, music and environment on the crystalline structure of water. He noted when kind and loving words were conveyed to the water; they formed a complete crystal structure compared to energies of hate and anger. Considering approximately 70% of our body comprises water, kindness has a direct impact on our immediate health.
People believe kindness signifies weakness and being taken advantage of. It’s important to delineate between kindness and being a doormat to others. You can be kind and assertive when others attempt to profit from your kindness. Therefore, you should in no way undermine your self-worth at the expense of others, but practice kindness while upholding your integrity.
Be Kind Anyway
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s no surprise wicked acts have a greater impression on us than acts of kindness. We are alerted to fear more than goodness. Psychologists believe we are wired to detect anything that threatens our survival and happiness. We give attention to acts of cruelty in the news because we perceive it as a threat to our survival. In these times of disingenuous social media interactions, unkindness abounds as people hide behind screens. This does not make it appropriate to abuse others. There is a person on the other side of the screen with feelings we must consider.
An important lesson in kindness involves asking yourself: “How would I handle being the recipient of this?” If it doesn’t feel good, avoid the behaviour. “Hurt is hurt, and every time we honour our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us,” states author and social researcher Brené Brown in Rising Strong.
I wish to leave you with a passage from Mother Teresa’s poem titled Anyway, in which she states: “People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centred; forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway.” Therefore, incorporate the smallest acts of kindness into your everyday life and notice the ripple effects. The Butterfly Effect in Chaos Theory asserts that a tiny event in one region of the globe can have a substantial effect somewhere else. Considering this, it is the Dalai Lama who reminds us that if you can’t be kind, avoid harming others.