The Gift of Kindness

December 20, 2017 by School of Medicine Webmaster

The holiday season is here, with all the hustle and bustle that this entails for many of us. It is a time when we often focus on giving. The type of giving we most often do is material: we give things as gifts. We may also give through our actions, by volunteering and helping others.   Another way that we can also give that we often think about less is through practicing kindness. When we do this, we sometimes even refer to it as giving “the gift of kindness”. When we practice kindness meditation, we extend good wishes to others, hoping for their wellbeing. We may also act with kindness, doing something for others with the intention of improving their wellbeing. Kindness implies an openhearted acceptance of others, without judgment. When we practice formal kindness meditation, we may extend positive wishes to others, even those who we may have a difficult relationship with or disagree with their views or how they act. Doing this can help us see the humanity in others, even those we disagree with, recognizing that as humans we all have our challenges and our difficulties, yet at a deeper level we all desire many of the same things, to be healthy and safe, to be happy.

Mindfulness is often defined as intentional present moment nonjudgmental awareness: being aware of what is going on right here, right now, without judging whatever this experience is. Doing this can be difficult, because when we pay attention to what is going on right now it may not be pleasant. We might be sad or angry, and being with sadness or anger is hard. Remembering to bring kindness to these experiences then can be helpful. If we are kind to ourselves, then we can recognize that this experience is hard, and we can know that we have the same wishes for our own wellbeing as we do for others. Sometimes we may feel that we do not deserve this, that we’ve acted in a way, or thought in a way, that doesn’t merit kindness, that the “right” response is to judge ourselves as not being good enough. Going down the route of self-blame often leads us to getting stuck. We feel we did something wrong and we “should” beat ourselves up about it. Yet this can keep us from moving on and actually dealing with things as they are. If we can bring some kindness to our situation, to intentionally soften our hearts and accept we’re not perfect (just like all other beings), we just might be able to do what may need to be done to move on. Often this entails taking responsibility for our actions or our thoughts, admitting if we’ve made a mistake. If an apology is in order, then apologizing. And finally, deciding what we can learn from this experience so we don’t repeat it in the future. And all of this is often easier if we can have some kindness for ourselves.

So this holiday season, consider giving the gift of kindness. Kindness through our wishes for the wellbeing of others, kindness through our actions, and kindness for ourselves in this difficult business of being human.

Filed Under: Monthly Musings