THE TIMELESS PRINCIPLE OF KINDNESS

This is one in a series of essays that was originally conceived as a book for print publication. If you enjoy it and would like to read more from the collection, you can find a sort of Table of Contents here.

It almost seems insulting to be talking about being kind. As if we need reminders to be kind to each other?

What? Are we in kindergarten still?

It sure seems that way sometimes doesn’t it?

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

Go ahead and try to drive from home to the office and back and count how many times you’re cut off, glared at, flipped off or worse.

Then count how many times you do the same thing to other drivers.

You see, regardless of what we’ve been taught from infancy on about being kind to people, giving someone their preference, yielding to their point of view, or even taking turns, as we grow up it’s continuously pounded into our psyche that all of that stuff makes us weak losers who will never succeed at anything.

The other day I was walking into an office building with my laptop case in one hand and a large coffee in the other. A well-dressed professional business woman probably a year or two younger than me was walking up to the same door and I could see we were going to make it there about the same time, so I did the kind of thing my Mom taught me to do in that circumstance: I slowed down a bit and let her go first.

Photo by Vanessa Serpas on Unsplash

My reward?

She opened the door, slipped through and let it slam in my face.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating doing me a favor because I’ve been a good boy. And I’m not saying do unto others so you’re sure to get it back in spades! But here’s the thing: if I hadn’t paused to let her go first, if instead I’d kept pace and met her at the door, or sped up and beat her there, I still would have held the door open and let her go through (after juggling my full hands of course!)

And, if her four-year-old daughter was holding her hand, she probably would have done the same for me. Because we need to teach kids manners! (add appropriately sarcastic expression here!)

So, in my mind, I’m the better person. (We’ll discuss humility later.)

But where does this selfish tendency to think of ourselves before anyone and anything else come from? Why is it such a rare thing for people to do something nice for another human being that it warrants coverage on the six o’clock news? Why do we need a Random Acts of Kindness Foundation to raise awareness? (Not to take anything away from the awesome work they’re doing, believe me. It’s just ironic, you know?)

Photo by Jonas Vincent on Unsplash

These are questions we should consider as we go about our day, because if you really do for a few minutes, you start to get this ugly little feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s your inner four-year-old letting you know “you’re not being nice”.

Maybe you should listen more often.

Maybe we all should.

WORDS TO REMEMBER:“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. — Maya Angelou

This is one in a series of essays that was originally conceived as a book for print publication. If you enjoy it and would like to read more from the collection, you can find a sort of Table of Contents here.

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