Kindness and a good heart are the underlying foundation for success in this life and making progress on the spiritual path. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
Kindness is often described as being friendly, generous, sympathetic, humane, and/or tolerant. That sounds like a nice thing to have someone say about you, doesn’t it? Having a good heart is about doing the right things for the right reasons, and because it helps others is one of the best reasons.
These attributes make for a good life, a helpful and useful life. It also makes for a very fulfilling life. Kindness and a good heart are, as the quote says, a great foundation for you life in this world. It helps you see the beauty in others and find the beauty within yourself.
It is also a good way to move forward on the spiritual path. On this path, each act of kindness, each decision make from your heart moves you a step closer to your best possible self. This is a journey that can be made with or without religion, as this journey is about self development and self discovery.
Why is being kind important?
If you are being kind, you are showing others how much you care. Yes, there are some people who do kind things just to show people they care, even if it’s just a photo-op for them. This form of kindness, while helping those for whom the help was designed, provides no help to the person performing the kindness.
A true act of kindness helps all involved. Those who were in need are given much needed assistance, and the person who is providing the help learns a little more about themselves, and what they can do to help others. They have taken another step towards their best possible selves, taken another step down the spiritual path.
Even for those who don’t believe in any spiritual path, there is still the warmth which wells up from within when performing the act of kindness. It is also an act with little possibility of a down-side. At worst, it only helps one person besides you, at most, it can ignite passions across the country.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Recently in the US, there was a photo taken of a Police Officer helping a man with no shoes in a very cold part of the country. He didn’t know someone with a cellphone got the picture. The person taking the picture didn’t expect it to become an internet sensation.
They just saw someone being kind, took the picture, and sent it in to the agency he worked for. Suddenly, both the officer and the photographer were instant celebrities. Hundreds of additional acts of kindness flowed from the people who were moved by simply seeing the photo on the news or on the internet.
From the story of the Mouse and the Lion in Aesop’s Fables comes a line which states that an act of kindness is never wasted. A lion had been kind and spared the life of a mouse. Later, the lion becomes trapped in a net and the mouse chewed the ropes, freeing the lion. The kindness was repaid, and both creatures live. Without the first kindness, both creatures would have died.
While we may never have the experience of such a dramatic result from an act of kindness, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act, right? I would urge all of us to act out of kindness towards others, even if it seems like it might not make that much of a difference.
Another story is told about a young boy walking down the beach at low tide, throwing starfish stranded on the beach back into the water. An old man, thinking his actions rather futile, tells him that his actions didn’t matter. The boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it back in the sea and said, “it mattered to that starfish.”
Who can say which act of kindness will be the turning point in someone’s life? There are many people who have mentioned that they were desperate, and someone helped them, and it changed their lives. It probably wasn’t the first kindness done, nor the last, but it was the one that made the difference to them.
If we fail to act, if we choose not to be kind, what will happen to those people we might have helped? And what will happen to us? How will our development continue if we choose to stop moving forward? How will we get started again, after having slowed down or stopped?
While acts of kindness are not the only way to move forward down the path towards our best possible self, or to move forward down the spiritual path, I believe it is something we should try to do as often as we can. How often is that? A little more than last month. Each and every month.
Kindness can be a personal interaction, even something as simple as a smile or holding open a door for the person following you into or out of a building. It can be as impersonal as sending a check to a charity, but it still helps others.
Kindness knows no bounds, besides those you place on it yourself. What can you do, what are you willing to do, to be kind to others, to help them in a way that is meaningful to them? That is a question we must answer ourselves. I know what my answer is, do you know what yours is?