Thoughts on World Kindness Day
In the continuous flurry and bombardment of tragic news, we seldom see much mention made of acts of kindness. Yet fortunately for most of us, our daily lives are spent in environments very far removed from what we see and hear reported on the news, online, and on social media.
There can be a perverse interest in anything unpleasant, it can reinforce our sense of security, making us feel that our lives are not as bad as those being talked about on our screens.
I’m not saying that there is always a conscious self-interest at heart when we hear of tragedy, or any feeling of schadenfreude – the malicious joy in the misery of others. Most often the sight of people in distress moves us, makes us step forward to offer help, or take out our wallets to make a donation.
A study by the Charities Aid Foundation in 2014 found that people are more willing to donate when an emergency is seen as beyond human control, such as a tsunami or earthquake. Natural disasters stimulate us Brits to make larger donations than to war torn countries where there is ongoing conflict.
Today is World Kindness Day, and it is worth remembering that Nietzsche argued kindness and love are the “most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse.” Compassion (the ability to ‘co-suffer’) and empathy (the ability to feel what another person is experiencing) are the foundation blocks of kindness, both spontaneous and pre-meditated.
Aristotle, in Book II of his Rhetoric, defines kindness as being “helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped.”
Not just today, but every day, we need to practice taking time out to gain perspective and acuity, to help us understand our place in the world. This, in turn, reveals itself in the way we treat others.
Meditation helps with perspective and expands your awareness, making you more conscious of what is going on, opening your eyes and sensibilities to those around you.
As meditators, our ‘sixth sense’ becomes finely tuned so that we perceive more accurately, and are more likely to make the right choices for ourselves. We feel more keenly and understand more intuitively, enabling us to step forward and be kind without a second thought.
Psychologists maintain that acts of kindness produce endorphins, making us feel good and helping to promote a ripple effect of kindness. Our hearts lift when we see acts of kindness, random or otherwise – let’s not just witness that in others – let’s do it ourselves.