Kindness - a personal view.

Kindness.
Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines kindness as "the quality or state of being kind". Kind in itself is defined as "of sympathetic or helpful nature".

It's difficult to provide a definition that explains an emotion. It's difficult, if not impossible for that definition to be foolproof. And yet, sometimes it's necessary to string together a definition that helps us to get an understanding of it. A signpost that guides us in the general direction and allows us to recognise and work upon an emotion.

Of late I've been thinking about kindness a lot and have been wondering what it actually means. Incidentally I stumbled across a book titled "The field guide to emotions" (yes a book as such exists!).  A dear friend of mine suggested this book. The book provides a very strict boundary for emotions and tells how we might confuse it with some other emotion which might feel similar. The example being how compassion might be mistaken to be kindness. This although is a good approach to take while you try to isolate and identify emotions, I feel this might not be a great tool when you want to be a kinder person in general.
An excerpt from the book "The field guide to emotions"


So what is kindness for me?
Kindness according to me is a complex emotion. It's not just about being helpful or sympathetic. For me it also entails the concept of acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude. If you were to ask me to be kind to someone, my first inclination would be to be accepting of whatever that person is. When I was thinking about kindness, I realised that one of the most important obstacles for me was that of judging a person and being dismissive of that person. The moment I judged and put a person on the wrong side of the line, I allowed myself to be less kind to that person. In a way, this is my brain justifying the lack of kindness towards that person since I've already judged that person to be bad.
The second obstacle was that of holding grudges. Now this is me living in the past. Kindness is an emotion of the present and the future. By holding on to some past experiences, it's quite easy to fall into the trap of being unkind. Forgiving, on the other hand, frees me of both the past and the future worries. It gives me a way to be kind to a person.
The third, was the lack of gratitude. To be kind, I realised that I had to have gratitude towards life in general. Appreciating what I have helps me to realise how much of a privilege life is. And how being kind to someone will only add on to the quality of life.

In the last few months, I've put in conscious efforts to be kind. The effects are quite obvious in terms of the mental wellbeing. By letting go of some of the past events, by forgiving people for the things that I had considered as unjust, I gained a mental space which was hitherto occupied by the events of the past. These weren't adding any value to my current life. They surely wouldn't have done any good for my future even. A lot of forgiving also takes place in conjuncture with acceptance. Until I started to accept both the people and the situations, I wasn't able to forgive. I was more stuck up on the "why?" of a situation. Acceptance removes the "why" and replaces it with an "is". This provides a pathway to forgiveness.

Many a times, I would debate the necessity to be kind to others. What does this accomplish? Does it make the other person's life better? After a while of practicing kindness, I realised that it doesn't really matter how it affects the other. What matters is how it affects me. It makes me happier. It brings peace to me. There's also a concept that says that when you are kind to someone, that someone will be kind to someone else and the token gets passed around, thus making the world a better place. Maybe that is how it works. But in reality, being at peace with self and being able to smile through some tough times is a good enough reason to be kind to others.

Last but not the least, I've learned also to be kind to myself. To accept the wrongdoings, learn and forgive myself. To stop blaming myself for situations and instead accept the situations and see what can be done to make things better.

As a parting thought, consider doing a random act of kindness. From what I've learned, it's really not that difficult. Most of the times, it leaves us in a better place than before. And hopefully, makes the world a better place :)

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