In light of the recent shootings and various acts of violence going on in our country and around the world, there’s been a lot of posts on social media about how we need to love each other and stop tolerating hate, etc. This is of course great and I completely agree.
But here’s something I saw shared recently:
Now while it’s clear the intention here is to be another one of those lovey-dovey “I’m helpful” and “I’m a decent member of society” posts, the reality of this message is no better than the violence it’s presumably against.
When kindness is conditional
The caveat “if you’re nice to me” is really quite dangerous. What happens when someone isn’t nice to you? How will you react? Will you act out in violence? Or maybe withhold kindness and call it fair? Because if so, your heart is in the same place as those whom I refuse to name.
We need to love people. That’s it. Love people. Which people? All people.
But what if they’re not nice to me? ALL people.
Even the people who are jerks. They’re the ones who are most vulnerable and most in need of love. And your acts of kindness towards them will likely make a bigger impact on them than on the nice people who share your religious and political views.
Whether you want to take a page out of Jesus’ book or Buddha’s, there’s a lot to learn about unconditional kindness that I for one would love to see implemented in our society on a much larger scale than it is now.
Us vs. them
When we see people as separate from ourselves — whether they are different because they are “black, which, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, rich, or poor” or any plethora of other differences we can have —we feel less inclined to help them. They aren’t family; they aren’t friends. They “don’t even go here“. So when they’re in trouble, why should we come to their rescue? In fact why should we even be that friendly towards them unless they are friendly to us first?
A better alternative
How would the world be if everyone took a proactive approach to kindness? If we all reached out with love for one another, regardless of the response we might get, or not get. What if we gave kindness without conditions or expectations?
Imagine that’s how you lived your life every day. How would you then feel if someone suggested to you that you be nice to someone if they were nice to you?
That would require you to now decrease your kindness. You’d go from being kind to everybody, to now only those who are kind to you. This idea would likely sound odd to you, and feel very unnatural.
If being kind to everyone without conditions or expectations is our natural state, then we will indeed grow to find anything else unnatural and uncomfortable. The person I aspire to be creates positive change by being a light in a world of darkness. I aspire to give kindness to those who need it most, to those who need it least, and to everyone in between. And I hope the kindness they receive will inspire them to pass it on to the next person. But if not, I will accept that. I can’t control how people react or what they do with my kindness. I can only control myself.
Who do you aspire to be?