Are we inherently kind, is kindness a state of being, or is kindness a learned behavior?
We often talk about the direct effects of cultivating kindness to keep us in a happy and harmonious place and to help us navigate our daily challenges. From a very young age, we are asked to share our toys in a nursery or in playgroups in an act of kindness, as sharing is caring.
We are taught to help our fellow friends in class as it elevates our sense of responsibility and care for a struggling peer. Effectively, we are taught to be selfless and unconditional in kindness as that is the ultimate act of unconditional love and compassion. However, is being kind just a mere label or an inherent sense of being?
Natural kindness versus transactional kindness: truth or label
I was recently told, “Can’t be too angry for long with this person, as generally, he/she is fundamentally very kind”. I would question that statement in itself, as I wish to explore the reverse. Was the person in question a truly naturally kind person, who acted without any expectation, or was this person treating kindness as a transaction and a bargaining chip with the anticipation of some gratification? In other words, are we selflessly kind or selfishly so, whereby we are only kind to one another as we expect a return on “our kindness investment”? In other words, can a “kind” person get away with an act of deceit and selfishness just because he is often labeled as being kind? Is kindness a mere label or state of being? In more extreme situations, is it the ultimate antidote to anathema?
I wonder if the natural state, of that particular individual, was perhaps an arrogant and selfish being, living a life of greed, just as perhaps primitive men did, as an act of pure survival. Must consume and not be consumed. But let’s dig a little deeper as no one is perfect. Aren’t we often just that: selfishly greedy and as a result, often we become unkind to one another? Again, the question one may ask is whether kindness is a natural state of being or is it a learned behavior.
Humankind or Kind Human?
My take from Rutger Bregman's popular book, Humankind: A hopeful History, humans look out for one another in a sense of duty and compassion and ultimately, in kindness. This is my personal interpretation and perhaps am not sticking to the details of anthropology that the book covers. We do act in selfless kindness as we are just designed to be that way. A baby is never aggressive but always smiles, unless he or she is uncomfortable or expressing a need, such as hunger or tiredness. We can train our adult brains to act in more kindness, and relearn to be effective communicators just as babies are. Perhaps we should all find our inner-child, and learn not to be stifled by unkindness and request of having to remain silent when we are not being heard. Being heard is an act of kindness…
Thus, I dig a little deeper: do we sometimes fail to act in our natural kind self, as we wish to express a revolt or an emotion of being misunderstood or a feeling of not being loved? In other words, our unkindness is a self-inflicting act of pain as we perpetuate unkindness on others, by maintaining this ongoing spiral of pain and suffering. Spiraling in pain and unkindness…
Perhaps, we spiral into a storm of lack of kindness to inflict pain on others as we are ultimately suffering. The irony of it all is that kindness can be advocated as the antidote to pain and suffering. I have no exact answer to that but would love to start a debate: how to be kind and act kindly towards one another without being so transactional. How to become and act kindly to each other to maintain honesty and authenticity?
Perhaps if we stopped expecting so much from one another, we would be in a much better place. Perhaps if we adopted more non-attachment to people, situations or things. Perhaps if we saw one another as more integral energy beings without trying to control them. Perhaps if we acted with true love, we could become truly kind. Often I say: let him or her be, as truly this is what I believe in.
Let people just be and move on with kindness. We cannot impose our wills on one another let alone control each other whether the individuals be our children, siblings, friends or romantic partners. Learn to be more accepting of others and move on. What is not meant to be is simply not meant to be, and accept it all in the name of kindness. But also, be truthful always as it is an act of ultimate kindness to highlight wrongdoing.
However, I may sound harsh, but I do believe that the ability to effectively express displeasure (without aggression or attack) is an act of kindness. How else can we learn or grow, if we do not instil strong boundaries? If you feel attacked, protect yourself and move on… with grace and kindness.
Kindness… the drug?
Kindness is often a prescription to combat mental health. We are asked to be kind to ourselves and not be so hard, as means to combat depression. Cultivating kindness to the self may bring the very peace we all need and deserve. Rippling the kindness from our heart center to our immediate environment may sound like being a hippie. In truth, it works. Using kindness as a drug may help in combating threshold depression and anxiety. Metta healing or Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is often advocated to help deal with difficult situations and people.
Dr. Matthieu Ricard is a famous monk and possibly one of the biggest advocates of MRI scanning on the effect of meditation on the brain. He is often considered as being one of the happiest people in the world. LKM is often characterized as being a constructive type of meditation, which enhances altruistic and empathetic attitudes towards one another. LKM focuses on self-acceptance and on the acceptance of one another, enhancing a detachment from our inherent tendency to control people we love. That it itself would be considered as being unkind, as no one is ever truly ours to control. Let them be…and move on with kindness.
Some harsh and blunt questions…
Have we let ourselves go, so much that perhaps the World is ill because of our limited ability to act in true kindness? Are we in a happy place when we behave in dishonesty and deceit? Are we happy when we act aggressively towards one another? Is kindness the remedy? Perhaps we ought to retrain our brains to be kind and relearn to value kindness as a state of being. Is speaking the truth an act of unkindness or is it often perceived to be so?
Being kind is not just the simple smile we give to a stranger, being kind helps us be polite, but acting in kindness is much more than just an act of politeness. Being kind is an act of unconditional love. Have we often forgotten to be kind as this was not a module taught in Business School or in the Science Faculty? Would kindness be an industry if it could be monetized?
I do not think so, as kindness is a state of being. Perhaps you either are or not, but we can ALL learn to be kind. Is it learned behavior, can it be taught, do we have books to teach us about kindness? Perhaps it is all of the above, but I truly believe, it is a state of being and a state of being able to speak your truths. It is also kind to recognize that certain situations and perhaps human rapports no longer serve us. Move on and glide in kindness…If it does not align, move on with kindness.
A final message: Loving Kindness…
LKM is often advocated as a meditative practice to combat anger, resentment, and hatred. However, we are not all trained monks nor are we all perfect, but we can strive to achieve some form of perfection if we looked at our true selves and address the poison that seeps into us. Let people be, in the name of kindness. Let them find their own journeys and their own paths, in the name of kindness, and let them find their way in life…
We all strive to live in the perfect body by hitting the gym daily. How about we learned to live with a healthy mind, a mind that truly thinks with kindness and thinks kindly of ourselves and of one another. No one is never always honest and no one never always acts with integrity. Often we all feel the need to act as victims of circumstances and live a life of pain and suffering.
No wonder our mental health is taking a big hit and that the wellness industry is a growing industry. However, the world needs more education on healthy minds and brain health. Just as we hit the gym to tone our abs, our minds need to be healthy to cultivate a healthy attitude to life. That starts with a healthy brain and a dose of pure kindness.
Look after yourselves and adopt a kindly attitude to the World. We can all live a life filled with pure kindness. Sending you all light and love…and kindness.