INSIGHTS ON KINDNESS BY POETS, SAGES & ACTIVISTS
In a dominant paradigm weighted towards self-interest and self-orientation, we must make a special effort to question our mode of being. Can we afford to be narrowly self-focused? Can we grow to anywhere near our true potential if we look out only for ourselves? What role do kindness and compassion play in bridging a world that is growing increasingly fragmented? What follows are five powerful reasons to be kind, articulated by some of the greatest minds and hearts from around the globe.
1. BECAUSE THERE CAN NEVER BE ENOUGH KINDNESS IN THE WORLD
Even if we do not achieve perfect peace on earth, because perfect peace is not of this earth, common endeavors to gain peace will unite individuals and nations in trust and friendship and help to make our human community safer and kinder.
I used the word ‘kinder’ after careful deliberation; I might say the careful deliberation of many years. Of the sweets of adversity, and let me say that these are not numerous, I have found the sweetest, the most precious of all, is the lesson I learned on the value of kindness. Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in our world. To be kind is to respond with sensitivity and human warmth to the hopes and needs of others. Even the briefest touch of kindness can lighten a heavy heart. Kindness can change the lives of people.
2. BECAUSE OUR VERY PRESENCE HERE IS PROOF OF KINDNESS
The word kindness has a gentle sound that seems to echo the presence of compassionate goodness. When someone is kind to you, you feel understood and seen. There is no judgment or harsh perception directed toward you. Kindness has gracious eyes; it is not small-minded or competitive; it wants nothing back for itself. Kindness strikes a resonance with the depths of your own heart; it also suggests that your vulnerability, though somehow exposed, is not taken advantage of; rather, it has become an occasion for dignity and empathy. Kindness casts a different light, an evening light that has the depth of color and patience to illuminate what is complex and rich in difference.
Despite all the darkness, human hope is based on the instinct that at the deepest level of reality some intimate kindness holds sway. This is the heart of blessing. To believe in blessing is to believe that our being here, our very presence in the world, is itself the first gift, the primal blessing.
3. BECAUSE ONLY KINDNESS MAKES SENSE AS A RADICAL RESPONSE TO SORROW
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for…
4. BECAUSE HUMAN HISTORY HAS BEEN SHAPED BY KINDNESS
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
5. BECAUSE BEING KIND IS IN OUR OWN BEST INTEREST
Yes, and understanding that begins with changing our attitude. We must realize that it is best to focus on our oneness, to re-emphasize what is the same about each of us rather than dwell on what is different. Yes, there are differences between us. But it doesn’t make sense to emphasize that, because my future and yours is connected with everyone else’s. So we have to take seriously our concern for all of humanity. When we focus on our individuality, humanity inevitably suffers, each one of us will suffer.
For example, a few minutes ago there was a fire alarm in this building. I responded immediately — not because this building is a part of my body but because I am here, in it. That’s why I have to take care of it. Similarly, whether we love humanity or not, we must realize that we are part of it. My future depends entirely on the future of humanity, and so I am compelled to take care of humanity. That is why being compassionate is actually in my own best interest. And a symptom of my own peace of mind is that I can share comfort with others around me.