We rise by lifting others.
I have always been a kind person. I generally will do what I can to make others happy and/or comfortable. I don’t like seeing people in distress. I will easily forgo what I need if it will assist another person. That’s true for me… and basically for everyone else in the world. I guess all of us are at various times either self-centred or other-centred. Maybe some of us spend more time in the one state than the other, but we all experience both. So, I want to start off by saying that I am a firm believer that human beings are born inherently kind and filled with love. Somewhere along the line as we grow up we are wounded and filled with fear to varying degrees; and in an attempt to protect ourselves we can behave in very selfish ways.
I have been very fortunate. I have a stable, loving family; I always lived in a good, quiet, safe neighbourhood; went to a good school; went to church every Sunday; had the privilege to go to University; got a great job; and built a successful career. Along that road, I made smart investments; got to travel a little and had a very good life. It was smooth sailing – exactly the kind of life we are taught to strive for and I was lucky enough to be rewarded with. So, I guess it has been easy for me to be kind – I had very few wounds; and the nature of my fears were not the kind that elicited selfish behaviour.
But was it really as simple as that – if I’m really truthful – how much of my kindness was really other-centred? Is it really other-centred if there is an expectation of something in return (even if not acknowledged)? The old me would argue that I wasn’t expecting anything in return! But, the more enlightened, honest me knows that that’s not true. How often was my act of generosity a means of keeping the peace; or a way to build a relationship; or path to recognition; a way of getting my way later on, etc? Are these then really acts of kindness?
Now, I’m not saying that these are not good acts – or that these do not promote a positive outcome on the whole – they can and do. I am also not saying that every act of kindness was flawed by an unconscious ulterior motive but many of mine were.
When life changed for me and everything collapsed and my perfect world came tumbling down four years ago; I was confronted with the powerful impact of kindness – real kindness – the one that expects nothing in return – the one that is for people who may have no impact on your life – the one that is done purely out of love and no other reason. Two significant things happened to me. This first was I attended my first Art of Living Happiness Course and on one of the days we were encouraged to do two random acts of kindness and report back the next day. The second was a friend recommending the book “29 Gifts” by Cami Walker about how she turned her life and health around with kindness towards others. These two things encouraged me to consciously do at least one act of kindness every day. This decision was one of the biggest factors in changing my life for the better and setting me on my path towards joy and happiness.
Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life.
Top points from the podcast
What is CONSCIOUS kindness? This is about deliberately looking for opportunities to be kind. It’s about planning for it. It’s about stepping outside your immediate world of people that you love and that matter to you and going beyond in the greater community of need. And, it’s about doing it with absolutely no need for anything in return.
What is the benefit?
- Contrast – when you are being kind to someone, in that moment you are aware that you have something that they don’t. Whether it be money, time, energy or some other resource, in that moment you have something to give that they need to receive. This contrast in situations helps us see, understand and accept our privilege.
- Gratitude – in seeing the contrast and accepting our privilege it gives us the tools for gratitude. It is easier to be appreciative and grateful for what we have when we interact with someone that has less than us in that moment.
- It fosters an Economy of Abundance – we live in a world where scarcity is highlighted all the time. It is a false scarcity promoted by a consumerist agenda to have us feel inadequate, unsafe and fearful in order to drive a material-based economy. When we start trading in kindness we see that life can be lived differently and that there is much abundance when we live closer to our nature.
- It’s in our nature to be kind – we are all born with an abundant capacity to be kind. As we grow and develop we are wounded and become fearful to varying degrees. As a result, we all gain the capacity to be selfish, which is an act done out of fear and defensiveness. When we act selfishly we go against our nature which is why we often experience guilt (sometimes not consciously) but, when we are kind it sits well with us energetically because we are behaving in accordance with our nature.
How to be kind:
- Start small – you don’t need to do anything big. I can be as simple as giving an apple to a homeless person.
- Your time is worth more than money – for many of us we may not have the financial means to give materially to other, but we all have 24 hours in a day and can give of that time to someone else. If we consider that, unlike money, we can never get time back it is a far more valuable resource than money and therefore more meaningful to give.
- Attention is more valuable than time – so many people are attention starved. So many people don’t get meaningful engagement with others. We live in a time where connection is through social media and people are lonely. Taking the time to meaningfully engage and interact with another person can be the greatest gift that person gets that day.
- Reflect – every evening take the time to reflect on your kindness of the day. By doing this you keep it in the forefront of your mind as something you are consciously doing. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What was my conscious act of kindness today?
- What was the result of the act for the recipient?
- How did it make me feel to do this?
If you didn’t manage to do an act of kindness on the day then ask yourself:
- What opportunities did I miss where I could have been kind?
- What stopped me from taking up those opportunities?
- Grow the acts – over time little acts of kindness become habit and therefore are no longer a conscious act but a habitual act. This forces us to then up our game into other conscious acts. So, consist application means that the value we add through our acts will grow and grow and grow.
Be kind whenever possible. It’s always possible.