Kindness in words creates confidence.
Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.
Kindness in giving creates love.
I resolve to be a kinder person. It’s not so much a New Year’s Resolution as it is a general goal. I admire kind people. My friend uses the Lao Tsu quote above as his email signature, and it is very much a part of who he is. I love to watch generous spirits in action. They tend to take on the form of teachers—not necessarily in the classroom, but in life. They nurture that piece of you that wants and needs something more. They suspend judgement because they recognize themselves in you. They embrace you. Think about the power in that! Those spirits are giants.
I think of myself as a compassionate human being, except I still snark about others. If I gripe enough times about an individual I tingle with guilt. I bitch about certain kids that drive me nuts. I think, This kid is a jerk, because of her blatant disrespect of adults and peers, or his obnoxious addiction to electronics, or her unwillingness to learn how to tie her own shoes, or his refusal to carry his own bag. I think poorly of the parents.
And then unexpectedly, and inevitably, that same child greets me with a warm enthusiastic hello in the schoolyard, sometimes even a hug. And boy do I feel like a butthole. As they wrap their young arms around my waist, I think, If you only knew how I’ve been dragging your name through the mud… Just a few days ago, a mother of one of these beasties gave me a generous Christmas gift as a thank you for looking out for her unruly daughter. Her parenting choices still boggle my mind, but I want to remember what a jackass I felt like in receiving that gift, so that I remember to keep the verbal venting of my disapproval to a minimum. I am working on having the discipline to keep those judgements to myself versus mindlessly moaning them to half my social circle.
It’s easy to feel kindly and praise a person if they are naturally lovable. But when you cannot stand someone, speaking kind words is tricky. I am lousy at sounding genuine if I am spouting bull. I want to speak honestly, and I want to be kind. Sometimes the two ideas do not mesh. So this is where that profound thinking that Lao Tsu talks about comes into play (my interpretation anyway). In wanting to say something kind about someone I feel unkindly towards, I have to alter my thinking. I need to identify with them somehow, and if nothing about them speaks to me, I have to squint really hard to at least see their potential. I have to remember that one day that person may unexpectedly hug me in the schoolyard.
My ten-year-old Max is a kind person—as far as I can see. Sometimes he tells me somebody said something nasty to him. I give him choice words that I think he should throw back at the offending party, and often he responds with “But that’s mean.” I’ve witnessed him tolerate without complaint the incessant adulation of a visiting 4-year-old until he was so stressed out that he started tearing up when she knocked him down with a zealous show of adoration. After mother and 4-year-old left, I asked him, “Why didn’t you say something?”
“I didn’t want to hurt her feelings,” he said.
I tell him, “Next time just whisper something to me, like ‘When is she leaving?'”
So it’s a balance, this business of being kind: forgiveness of others’ weaknesses vs. intolerance of their miserable behavior. It’s a delicate mix of feeling compassion and declaring boundaries. One of the things I admire about my Lao Tsu-quoting friend is his acceptance of the meanest, ugliest, most irritating people. There is no ill-will when he speaks of—or to—less-than-stellar individuals. He sees that they are struggling with issues, and he knows that it is for them alone to deal with those issues. When he speaks, it is only with the intent to empower them with self-respect and self-confidence. His compassion is quite remarkable.
There are different ways to be kind. For me, at this moment, my practice in kindness involves choosing what to say and what not to say. What we say shapes what we think and who we are. In conclusion I leave you with this quote from Mahatma Gandhi:
Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.