Never underestimate the power of kindness, of laughter, of compassion, of deep listening. . . . Or Forgiveness. . . .Or Love.
We each have the power to bring light to the world in countless small moments, every day. Though our actions may seem insignificant to us at the time, their effects can ripple outward, touching many lives in ways that we don’t anticipate and may never see.
There are, of course, the immediate effects of our interactions: when we reach out with a smile or a helping hand, the person we touch is more likely to act generously to others in turn. When we react to a loved-one with understanding and support, rather than impatience, defensiveness or worry, we provide the space for their distress to ease so that not only do they feel better, they are less likely to lash out in their pain and hurt others.
Which is not to say that this is easy to do. My biggest challenge always is to stay grounded in compassion when someone around me is upset, angry or hostile, especially toward me. And I still fail to do so far more often than I succeed.
But it IS to say that kindness and compassion are worth being committed to. There has never been an instance in my life in which acting out of anger or judgement or a sense of righteousness has proven helpful – regardless of how justified it seemed at the time. I believe it is still perfectly possible to speak our truth, stand for our principles, and set boundaries in a way that kind, open and respectful to others – it’s just that most of us don’t know how and have rarely (if ever) seen it done (think Nelson Mandela). But the impact of doing so can be enormous.
Humans are a very social species, hard-wired to be very sensitive to (and easily influenced by) the actions, beliefs, and emotions of the group. Research has shown that our behavior and attitudes affect not only those immediately around us, but the people who their lives touch, and so on. If we hold kindness and compassion as a priority – and can model it (or at least model the striving toward it) in our daily lives – it is perhaps the most powerful thing we can do to make the world a kinder, gentler place.
Of course there is more to be done, too – helping the sick or poor, mediating conflicts in our families and communities, speaking out and working against injustice. But whether or not your path involves these bigger needs, embracing kindness and compassion as a way of life can be fundamental to addressing the underlying cause of much of the world’s suffering and strife – our lack of caring for each other.
So for me, living with kindness is now my top priority – more important than how I look or whether my house is clean; more important than how much money we have or what my personal or professional accomplishments are. My hope for my life is that I can leave a little more love in the world than I found it with. I still fall short much of the time, but it seems a worthy thing to work for. If any of this resonates with you, I hope we can be companions on this journey.