I’ve written many times about how I feel we should look at all sides, find common ground, talk over places we disagree with compassion and a willingness to hear. I’ve also written a lot about being open, non-judgemental, and how we are all, most of us anyway, pretty much the same, wanting the same basic things out of life. I believe all of it.
What I believe as well, more than anything else, is that we should all be kind to each other. We should talk from a place of kindness, act from a place of kindness, and think about the world and our fellow men and women from a place of kindness. This is not to say that we should all just get along and there will never be discord. Of course there will be, and is. It’s just that as we disagree we should do it with kindness. No name calling, no finger pointing, no bending of facts or twisting of ideals.
I was reading an article today on CNN.com, the subject of which I won’t talk about as it’s really not relevant to what I’m trying to say here, and then I looked at the comments. Needless to say it was the same ol’ same ol’. And people, listen when I say this, it came from both sides of the argument. As I’ve said, I’m liberal, but I get just as disgusted with the liberal rhetoric, hype, and nastiness, as I do the conservative comments in kind. What good does it do to point fingers, call names, make statements with no support or basis in fact, and generally act like an ass? We get nowhere doing this. Let me repeat… NOWHERE. We have to be better than this, people. We have to rise above our petty differences and playground tactics so we can have meaningful conversations. That is unless we feel we already have all the answers, know everything, and can learn nothing from each other. Arrogant much?
The key to acting with compassion is kindness. Kindness to ourselves, our neighbors, our loved ones, and yes… even toward people we feel might be our adversaries. I will listen to your reasoning, your opinion, your ideas, much more willingly if you don’t call me a name, make fun of what I believe in, and presume to know me. I don’t know you and therefore should do the same. Other than to say, once again, I really feel we are all after pretty much the same things in life… a good life well lived with people we love.
In an effort to look into kindness, do a bit of research you might say, I stumbled upon the seven virtues. The antithesis of the seven deadly sins, these are the seven ideals, the seven character traits, we should all strive to achieve. I actually read them through, not skimming but reading, which made me realize the deeper meaning behind them instead of the sort of one word definitions that are so often assigned to them. Chastity is a great example of this. People always think of chastity as the no sex virtue. Yes, there is a part of the definition that says save yourself based on your current status, but there’s so much more to it than that. In finding the seven virtues I was fascinated… I’d read them before, long ago, but reading them again, with older and hopefully wiser eyes, I found myself agreeing with them in basic principal, as I interpreted them. Key point here is how I interpreted them. We, each of us, take things in through the filter of our own perception. It cannot be helped. So I read these virtues and this is what I understood them to mean, for myself, and for the larger world. I took the original definitions directly from Wikipedia so take that for what you will. I’ve left in the gloss (the four highlighted words directly after the virtue that represent a brief marginal notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text) and after that the sections of the definitions I felt summed up the essence of each virtue. I tried to do this paraphrasing elegantly so the basic premises of the virtues shown through. And away we go….
Chastity: Purity, knowledge, honesty, wisdom. To be honest with oneself, one’s family, one’s friends, and to all of humanity. Embracing of moral wholesomeness and achieving purity of thought-through education and betterment. The ability to refrain from being distracted and influenced by hostility, temptation or corruption.
Temperance: Self control, justice, honour, abstention. Restraint, temperance, justice. Constant mindfulness of others and one’s surroundings; practicing self-control, abstention, moderation, zero-sum and deferred gratification. Prudence to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time. Proper moderation between self-interest, versus public-interest, and against the rights and needs of others.
Charity: Will, benevolence, generosity, sacrifice. Generosity, charity, self-sacrifice; the term should not be confused with the more restricted modern use of the word charity to mean benevolent giving. Charity—or love (agäpé) — is the greatest of the three theological virtues. Love, in the sense of an unlimited loving kindness towards all others, is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God. Such love is self-sacrificial. Confusion can arise from the multiple meanings of the English word “love”. The love that is “caritas” is distinguished by its origin – being divinely infused into the soul – and by its residing in the will rather than emotions, regardless of what emotions it stirs up.
Diligence: Persistence, effort, ethics, rectitude. A zealous and careful nature in one’s actions and work; decisive work ethic, steadfastness in belief, fortitude, and the capability of not giving up. Budgeting one’s time; monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness. Upholding one’s convictions at all times, especially when no one else is watching (integrity).(The vice “acedia” is more commonly known as “sloth”.)
Patience: Peace, mercy, ahimsa, sufferance. Forbearance and endurance through moderation. Resolving conflicts and injustice peacefully, as opposed to resorting to violence. Accepting the grace to forgive; to show mercy. Creating a sense of peaceful stability and community rather than suffering, hostility, and antagonism.
Kindness: Satisfaction, loyalty, compassion, integrity. Charity, compassion and friendship for its own sake. Empathy and trust without prejudice or resentment. Unselfish love and voluntary kindness without bias or spite. Having positive outlooks and cheerful demeanor; to inspire kindness in others.
Humility: Bravery, modesty, reverence, altruism. Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. It is a spirit of self-examination; charity toward people you disagree with. The courage of the heart necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved. Reverence for those who have wisdom and those who selflessly teach in love. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one’s own self. Being faithful to promises, no matter how big or small they may be. Refraining from despair and the ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation.
I love the character traits present in these… being unselfish, inspiring kindness in others, loving your fellow human, conviction, honesty, patience, mercy, honor, generosity of spirit, justice, peace, and compassion. Just to name a few. These are the things we should strive for, these are the ways in which we should act in our own lives and toward our fellows. This is how we should live in the larger world.
I read these virtues and thought again, the greatest of these is kindness… it generates all the other traits. If we are kind to ourselves we are better people out in the world. If we are kind to our fellow humans then we spread an energy of joy and understanding versus judgement and antagonism. Kind people act with charity, they act with mercy, they act with love.
I don’t profess to always be the kindest of people. I try, but am honestly not always successful. The hope, my hope, is that I am more kind than not, that I think before I speak and act, and that I am always attempting to be aware of my actions and their impact on the people around me and the world at large. What kind of energy do I, do we, want to put out into the world? There are two options… positive energy, which pushes things in a loving and caring direction, or negative energy, which diminishes and constricts. It’s our choice every day. It’s the choice we make when we interact with the barista at our coffee shop, our partners friends and family, or a homeless person, or someone we are angry with or maybe disagreeing with. It’s a choice people. We need to try and be better.
I say strive for kindness… we would all be better off. The world would be better off. Small acts to large, every act of kindness matters. It matters, and it makes the world a better place.
… stepping down off soap box now…