On Kindness, Compassion, Empathy and Being Polite
by Jason John Bartholomew
Kindness is an exchange. It’s a two way dynamic. A truly kind intention that isn’t properly received as kindness is then only charity. But in all fairness true kindness seldom misses its mark. It’s uncanny that way. It finds its mark with such consistency because it is always completely spontaneous and arises out of a moment fertile for its expression. Kindness can not be counterfeit and is usually a very quiet exchange between two people. There is eye contact usually and I have never witnessed it without a softening around the eyes. In the same regard as I have never known grace to be without a tearing up and more often than not a silent deluge like late spring rain, warm and quiet and cleansing.
Compassion is care and concern for your fellow human and is best summed up in the adage “there but for the grace of god go I.” Charity is compassion in motion. Compassion is not empathy and may not be accompanied by any strong sentiment once it has reached the good works stage, at which point it is more an act of will than anything. At its inception however there is usually a precipitating incident of grace that is not unlike empathy and heralds a change in view. This can also be referred to as a miracle. The strong sentiment quality does not last but the deep emotional vibration or tenor remains and is more or less permanent. There are exceptions but I won’t bother with those here. There are renewals ever so often has been my experience. The quantity of grace is infinite so there is eternal access to its experience.
Empathy is not a desirable quality, at least not regularly, for most people. At little empathy goes a long way. An untrained or unconditioned empath will be a neurotic mess. I am of the personal opinion that most people who claim to be empathic are narcissistic drama queens.
Niceness on the other hand is mostly just dishonesty. It’s stupid and a waste of time generally. However, cordial, or what some might call polite although I feel inclined to take exception to that, is a way of extending the minimal respect to all people. People are always going on about being disrespected, very often quite foolish people who haven’t figured out real respect is earned. These are often the same people who bristle if not extended trust they haven’t earned, which is incidentally a very good sign to withhold trust and be wary. But I digress.
Most people, particularly strangers and distant acquaintances should be accommodated with the bare minimal human respect that being cordial provides. This can also be referred to as common courtesy and to be clear there are dozens of exceptions to this, which I won’t go into unless requested.
I make the distinction here regarding acquaintances and strangers because once people are moving, for better or worse, within closer spheres, then a great many other factors are at play including familiarity, history, and an ongoing checks and balances of earned credits and demerits. This is to say nothing of individual or developed interpersonal communication styles.
I will say one thing about individual communications styles and temperaments however, because it is important and timely. People come in all kinds of colorful configurations created from a huge spectrum of influences that include genetics, astrology, progression of the soul, culture, socio-economics, upbringing, and personal will. This is great and as it should be.
Some people are naturally more perky or gruff or frank or rowdy or even bawdy. Mistaking temperament for intent or trying to police people into one nice “polite” style is stupid and conformist. The people behind such attempts are not wise and should be shouldered out of being in a position to lead the group herd.
It is an unfortunate truth, and I say this with wry humor, most people are average. They would have to be, right? That means that most people are mediocre and not so evolved or enlightened. When you choose to follow the consensus of the day then, you chose to follow the average and not so bright. Just a point to keep in mind as one wade’s through the current social mores and narratives.