Human beings are amazing creatures, our behavior range remarkable. We have capacities that allow us to do both wonderful and terrible things.
As a student of human development, I often consider what is most natural — the wonderful, the terrible, or something in between? As a self-proclaimed optimist, I believe it is the wonderful, and I simplistically explain human behavior that moves toward the terrible end of the spectrum as being due to people dealing with their painful life experiences.
This is not to say, though, that we are born knowing how to do wonderful things. We need positive role models to guide us and loving environments to nurture us. Having these, we come to see the world as a safe place and want to contribute positively to it. Doing that, we feel in tune or one with the universe.
It just feels right. It’s natural.
But we all have to deal with painful experiences, and the more of them we have to deal with the harder it is to see the world as a safe place. For some of us, the pain has become the norm and it’s all we can do to get through the day. Regardless of how deep the pain is, we all benefit by having things that guide us back to seeing the world as a safe place.
Kindness is a torch that lights that path.
Seen this way, kindness is both a means and an end. As a means, it takes you to a place where you consistently get to see the good in human beings. As an end, being kind immediately changes who you are.
I dare you to try it. As a starting spot, over the next week do three things:
First, do something kind for yourself.
Take a hot bath. Get a massage. Eat something you normally don’t let yourself eat. Read a book for FUN. Watch your favorite TV show WITHOUT guilt. Spend some extra time with your kid(s), a pet, a friend. If you struggle being nice to yourself, consider the fact that you are reading this the permission you need to do it.
Second, start a kindness journal.
This need not be anything elaborate, a couple scraps of paper in your back pocket will do. The idea is to start writing down the kind things you see people doing for each other. Believe me, they are going on around us all the time. A kindness journal helps you recognize them and tilts your awareness scale in the positive direction. Extra credit if you stop what you are doing to write it down after having just seen it.
Third, take time at dinner or bedtime to say out loud something about the day for which you are grateful.
If you are dining or living alone, still say it out loud. Do it on a tape recorder if it makes you feel less silly (or tell your smart speaker). Verbally expressing gratitude is another way to bring the positive into greater awareness. After having done this for a few days, notice how many things you talk about have to do with kindness.
You are an amazing being, one of a “kind.” What kind? Human-kind. And human-kindness illuminates our natural way of being — wonderful.