“Kindness, the simple regard for others, is the beginning of holiness.”
Attributed to Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
Look around you.
There is kindness everywhere.
That’s because it starts with you. Kindness is your natural disposition. It just gets covered over by tension and constant distraction.
A lot of it has to do with technology. Technology discourages kindness. It robs us of the simple encounters that are the ground of human kindness.
Technology and social media rob you of Presence because they rob you of touch.
The Touch of Presence
You have the gift of touch.
You touch and are touched with your eyes. Your eyes reach out to observe things. When you perceive objects with your eyes, you also take that perception inside of you.
You are touched by what you hear. Sound touches and penetrates your body, not just your ears. This is especially true of your words because they are sound forms with meaning.
Your skin is the largest sense organ of your body. Through your skin you perceive sound, temperature, movement, shapes, forms, and textures.
When you are robbed of the touch of your sense perceptions, you are robbed of your own true Presence – which is kindness itself.
Mediated Presence Distances Kindness
If you are like most people, the majority of your daily encounters are mediated by screens. Screens give you the illusion that you are present, but they detach you from true Presence because your sensory encounter is largely limited to sight – mediated sight. Sensory encounters mediated through a machine are not direct presence.
In addition, screens create tension in your body. They cause the release of stress chemicals that create anxiety – even when you are off the screen.
That’s why sleep experts recommend no screens for an hour before bed. It takes time for your body to clear the anxiety producing chemicals that inhibit sleep.
When you’re in a constant state of anxiety your body tenses. When you are tense and robbed of sensory contact, it’s more difficult for your innate kindness to well up.
Acts of kindness that come over screens prevent the full sensory touch of kind words and acts.
It’s curious that we expect to be satisfied with mediated Presence and touch with other people, when we would never expect that of animals.
Your dog or cat may recognize your voice and face, even over a screen. Some do. But neither you nor your pet find a screen encounter to be a satisfying substitute for the real Presence of one another.
Kindness Is Your True Nature
You may think kindness requires time. And your days are full. You feel you haven’t time to do something off screen that might be kind.
But you do.
When you are Present, kindness infuses what you do. It’s not about doing more, it’s about how you do what you already do, so that it reflects your true nature.
You don’t have to make more time to be kind, you only have to shift your attention to how you act as you go about your day.
Kindness is not the same as generosity. Generosity may take the form of giving money to a charity or an organization whose work or mission you value.
But kindness requires your Presence.
Two Kinds of Kindness
There are two forms of kindness. One is the kindness of self restraint, the other the kindness of action.
What these two share in common is your active attention to the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is what “the simple regard for others” is. It’s holding others in the same regard as you hold yourself.
Acts of kindness as self restraint usually involve words more often than actions. A simple act of kindness is to refrain from harsh or harmful words in a conversation – especially if you disagree with someone else.
Aside from “simple regard” for another, there are practical reasons for this. Responding with anger or harmful words inevitably escalates the disagreement and the degree of hurt feelings on both sides of the conversation.
The Golden Rule takes the practical reasons into account. But the other side of the Golden Rule is an acknowledgement that there are more benefits, both to you and to others, by your acts of kindness.
Kindness is the Outpouring of Your Natural Compassion
Active kindness is the result of your imagination, which allows you to be compassionate. Because you can imagine something, you naturally respond with kindness. Imagining something means asking yourself the question, “How would I feel if that were happening to me?”
Because you can imagine that you might feel sad, sorry, exhausted, anxious, or fearful, you can act upon that knowledge with regard to others. You have a good idea of what would alleviate your own sadness or anxiety, or what you might appreciate someone doing for you if you were exhausted.
This comes naturally to you.
You know what kindness is from the inside out, and so you offer it from the core of your being to others — without even thinking about it unless you are distracted. Distraction hampers imagination.
You can make kindness a simple spiritual practice.
When you are tense or anxious, pause and imagine the effects of your words or deeds on others. You know how you would like others to do unto you.
Refrain from harmful words, or offer consolation to someone who is suffering.
When you engage in acts of kindness – whether of restraint or of action – they have an effect on you from the outside in. They provide you with a deep sense, so deep you may not even notice, of the sacredness of creation.
That’s why kindness is the beginning of holiness.
Kindness is the Beginning of Holiness
Kindness hallows because it is an act of recognition of the sacredness of yourself and other people. It extends to the rest of creation -- to animals and to the Earth. Any time you refrain from harm you are recognizing sacredness.
Any time you act with kindness toward others, by offering help, consolation, or sharing in another’s joy, you hallow.
You are recognizing the sacredness of creation, and honoring that sacredness with your simple regard for others.
It is your own sacred self that refrains from harm, and responds to and acts kindly towards others.
Your acts of kindness expand holiness – from the inside out – from you to the world. And back again. Because everyone and everything benefit from your touch.
Dissolving the tensions and distractions that inhibit the upwelling of kindness, your true nature, is what I teach. If you are interested in learning more about this, enroll in the online course that I offer. The course gives you simple, sustainable practices for dissolving the tensions that obstruct your ability to know the Real You – the you who is calm and kind at your core.
I also offer personal coaching to help you rediscover yourself as the joyful, kind, calm person you really are.