Tentatively titled Principles of Purpose: A Guide To Living Wisely, is an ongoing draft of a concept I might one day publish a book on. It’s essentially 30 Principles that I think are essential to living life wisely. Some are principles that I wished I had learned much earlier in life. Many are principles that I only learned in recovery in 2016-2017. Still other principles were ones I had applied off and on during my 56 years.
Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Affection, gentleness, warmth, concern, and care are words that are associated with kindness.
While kindness has a connotation of meaning someone is naive or weak, that is not the case. Being kind often requires courage and strength. Kindness is an interpersonal skill.
There is a saying, “One good turn deserves another.” That means if you do someone a favor, chances are you’ll be repaid in kind. The same can be said for random acts of kindness.
They can create a “ripple effect” whereby the person you help may be inspired to do the same for someone else, and so on in a virtual cascade of kindness. In fact, according to psychologist Jonathan Haidt, just witnessing an act of kindness can prompt someone to follow suit.
Kindness At Work
Kindness of Interpretation
In theory, we all love kindness of course, but in practice, a kind person sounds like something we would try to be only once every other more arduous and more rewarding alternative had failed. Learning to be kind means acknowledging how boring kindness can (unfairly) sound.
So much of what we value is in fact preserved by kindness and is compatible with it. We can be kind and successful, kind and exciting, kind and wealthy and kind and potent. Kindness is a virtue awaiting our rediscovery and our renewed, un-conflicted appreciation.
What we tend to be most short of from others is kindness of interpretation: that is, a generous perspective on the weaknesses, eccentricities, anxieties and follies that we present but are unable to win direct sympathy for. The kind person re-tells the story of our lives in a redemptive way.
The kind person works with a picture of us that is sufficiently generous and complex as to make us more than just the ‘fool’ or ‘weirdo’, the ‘failure’ or ‘loser’ that we might otherwise so easily have been dismissed as.
The kind person gives generously from a sense that they too will stand in need of kindness. Not right now, not over this, but in some other area. They know that self-righteousness is merely the result of a faulty memory, an inability to hold in mind – at moments when they are truly good and totally in the right – how often they have been deeply and definitively in the wrong.
Kindness remembers how there might still be virtue amidst a lot of evil. Kindness is aware that when someone shouts an insult, they are not usually revealing the secret truth about their feelings; they are trying to wound the other because they feel they have been hurt – usually by someone else, whom they don’t have the authority to injure back. Kindness is interested in mitigating circumstances; in bits of the truth that can cast a less catastrophic light on folly.
RAK’s stands for Random Acts of Kindness. No matter small or large, a random act of kindness has been shown to create a ripple of positive health & well-being effects to others around us: coworkers, patients, clients, family, and friends.
Random acts of kindness may help to improve mental health. There is some evidence that working to help others can be a way to cope positively with one’s own problems. Some people find that their own problems seem less severe when they help others, and the positive regard many people receive when they do kind things can help improve their mood. While a random act of kindness is not a substitute for mental health treatment, it can help people feel better about themselves and those around them.
Being Kind To Yourself
Self-kindness refers to acting in kind and understanding ways towards ourselves. For example, instead of being critical (I’m so disorganized! I’ll never be successful!), our inner voice is supportive and warm (It’s OK that I missed the deadline. I worked hard and I’ll make it next time).
A sense of common humanity is the recognition that everyone makes mistakes and no one is without their weaknesses.
Accepting that we are not alone in our suffering comforts us with feelings of inclusivity rather than alienation. Finally, mindfulness offers a “meta-perspective” on our hardships, helping us to not exaggerate our distress and become engulfed by it.
1. Think about the kindest, most compassionate person you have known—someone who has been kind, understanding and supportive of you. It may have been a teacher, a friend, or perhaps a friend’s parent. If you can’t think of someone in your life who has been kind toward you, think of a kind and compassionate public figure or even a fictional character from a book, film or television.
2. See if you can single out the key factors involved in helping you to feel so cared about: the words, gestures, looks, or touch of this person. Now use these factors to help you become your own “nice person”—meaning that you can now provide for yourself the things this person provided for you.
3. Try talking to yourself in the same way, using the same loving words or soothing tones. If the person physically comforted you, repeat this gesture toward yourself.
4. Take a deep breath and take in the good feelings of loving kindness.