Everywhere you look, there are lessons on kindness.
There are religious leaders and texts, urging compassion for the sick and the poor, and an end to greed and selfishness. There are blogs, self-help books, and even daily tips on moving beyond your immediate needs and serving the greater good with random acts of kindness. There are beautiful, great ideas, encouraging us all to do our part to make this world a better place.
The problem is that we already know how to be kind.
If you ask a room filled with people whether it is kind to donate money to a homeless shelter, give food to a pantry, or smile at someone who is having a bad day, everyone will agree with you. We know how to help each other out and how to brighten someone’s day. Sure, we may disagree on the specifics, but we all do know how to be kind.
The problem is that we aren’t necessarily doing it. So often, we catch ourselves judging or acting out of greed, and we see so many other people doing the same. We decide that we’re not trying hard enough, that there is something inherently evil within us that we need to overcome in order to be kind.
And in all this muscling ourselves, in all this self-attack, we’re still not able to overcome it. We’re still not able to be as kind, patient, and non-judgmental as we would like to be.
Why is this? Because we’re not looking below the surface, to see the real issue. The issue isn’t that we don’t know how to be kind. The issue is that there are obstacles that are preventing us from being kind. These obstacles can come in the form of fears, self-doubts, and limiting beliefs. In order to love and be kind in the way that is completely natural to all of us, we need to first eliminate these obstacles.
What are some common obstacles to kindness? They may include:
1. Not meeting our own needs.
I’ve written before about the importance of meeting basic needs. Not only will neglecting our own needs put our mind in a state of fight-or-flight, but it will also lead us to try and meet our needs externally. “Selfish” behavior is nearly always caused by a lack of attention to ourselves and our own needs. Kindness begins with kindness to ourselves.
2. Attachment to “security.”
Many of us want secure, safe lives. And we seek this through finding jobs, families, and homes that lend themselves to what we perceive to be a secure situation. When this “security” is threatened, we can cling to it desperately, in survival mode, not focused on anything but preserving the situation. A lot of times “backstabbing” can be caused by this clinging.
3. Survival mode.
Stress causes the fight-or-flight response, which in turn causes the mind and body to focus only on survival. When in fight-or-flight, we have a feeling of being rushed, of not having enough, and our minds are constantly looking for anyone or anything who could be a potential threat. This leads us to misunderstand other people’s intentions and to be less willing to listen, understand, or even give another person the benefit of the doubt.
4. Making assumptions.
So much of our communication consists of assumptions! When we don’t ask questions, when we are not curious with other people, we assume that we know their intentions and hidden meanings for their actions. We then act in response to our assumptions, which leads to more misunderstanding.
Removing these obstacles requires a great deal of introspection—being curious with your own mind. Ask yourself why you think what you do. Spend some time examining what is really going on. In doing so, you will begin to judge less and understand more. You will learn to tap into the kindness that is inherently in all of us.
For help in overcoming your obstacles to kindness, consider an individual e-mail, chat, or Skype session.
There are still spaces available in the Simple Living Basics E-Course, which will begin July 1. Make an investment in your peace of mind this summer! Discounts are available.