Monday, July 30, 2012

A Special Gift Is Kindness

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We create our own happiness. I know this because I'm a recovering pessimist who is a learning, practicing, living example. Practice totally works! Changing negative thought patterns into positive ones has brought me greater joy and deeper satisfaction in my relationships than I could ever imagine. Even when things aren't perfect.

Especially when thing aren't perfect.

I feel like my life is in transition at the moment. I'm moving out of survival/tread water mode and moving towards the living/breathing/thriving mode. I'm ready to push myself a little bit farther. To see how miraculous and beautiful I can make this life. To start, I'm having a reboot week, starting today. I'm eating only raw foods. I'm spending daily time journaling and reading sacred words and pondering and praying.

And I'm giving up my phone. For one week. [screams] No really. [screams loudly] You can always email me or call me on my home phone. It will be okay. [breathes deeply]

Inspired by advice from Mara from A Blog About Love—who teaches that even in difficult situations, if we focus on attaining a virtue, like forgiveness or courage, we can be resilient and even triumphant during trials—I decided to focus for a few months (or years, or lifetime—however long it takes) on acquiring the virtue of kindness. 

And no sooner had I been thinking this, than information on the subject started flying my way. The Law of Attraction is funny (or awesome, depending on how you look at it) that way.

Noah Webster describes kindness this way:

1. Good will; benevolence; that temper or disposition which delights in contributing to the happiness of others, which is exercised cheerfully in gratifying their wishes, supplying their wants or alleviating their distresses; benignity of nature. Kindness ever accompanies love. 

2. Act of good will; beneficence; any act of benevolence which promotes the happiness or welfare of others. Charity, hospitality, attentions to the wants of others, &c., are deemed acts of kindness, or kindnesses.

Isn't that beautiful?

And while I was pondering upon the virtue of kindness, the words of a hymn began to circle around in my head, and then ever so slowly, sink into my heart with a new, deeper meaning than I had been ready to understand before.

Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior, may I learn to love thee-
Lord, I would follow thee.

Kindness requires strength beyond my own ability, and I have help as I seek to acquire that virtue. Heaven's help.

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can't see.
Who am I to judge another?
Lord, I would follow thee.

Kindness is showing compassion instead of resentment when people don't treat us the way we hoped. Kindness is recognizing that happy, emotionally healthy people don't lash out at others. Kindness knows that people who are unkind are suffering in their own way.

Kindness is refraining from judging, criticizing, or gossiping about others. Kindness sees the best in everyone.

I would be my brother's keeper;
I would learn the healer's art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother's keeper-
Lord, I would follow thee.

Kindness can be learned! This is the best news for someone like me whose gut instinct is to react to the world with "tough love" and an attitude that people should help themselves and a belief that people only get what they deserve. Kindness instead is teaching in a gentle way, not accepting the victim mentality, but lifting and offering to help when we can.

Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me,
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For thy servant I would be.
Savior, may I love my brother-
Lord, I would follow thee.

How much does the Lord love us? So much so, that as he was dying on the cross, he offered this prayer to his Father on behalf of those who were crucifying him: "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." That is the type of love and kindness we can show to those around us.

How do you practice kindness? I DON'T REALLY KNOW. But I'm trying. I'm studying and pondering and saying to myself "I am kind. I am tenderhearted." and putting reminders everywhere. And the best part? Kindness changes the giver as much as the receiver.

Any thoughts you'd like to share or things you've learned while practicing kindness?


  1. This is something I feel like I am always working on. Your thoughts are very helpful and amazing. Thank you my kind friend.

  2. I've become much more cynical. I was never cynical or distrusting of people before. I gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, even when I let them walk all over me. As I've learned to hold my boundaries, not wallow in the victim mindset, and stand up for myself, I've realized that I've started to distrust and think the worst of people. I need to find a happy medium. I need to still hold my boundaries, stay out of victim, and stand up for myself while still giving others the benefit of the doubt. If I find a way to do it, I'll let you know. ;)

    Thank you for your wonderful example. You're always such an inspiration.

  3. That is my favorite hymn because it is all about what I need to change most. Thank you for posting this. I love that you are really trying and I know you will see changes and results.

  4. What a great blog post :) Kindness really does make the world go round (who needs money right? :)

  5. I'm constantly asking myself: Does it really matter? Is this worth being mean/upset/negative/grumpy/mad over? If the answers are no and no, then I ask, how will my reaction affect this person? Instead of being angry, I try to be calm and use it as a learning opportunity. Like when someone pooped their pants yesterday. :)

    I think it's easier practicing this with kids. With adults, it's more difficult. I do know from experience that over time, our kindness will start to reflect off that person and before long, they can't help but reciprocate. If they don't, there's still peace to be had knowing you did what you could.

  6. Your final sentence about telling yourself "I am kind" will be very productive. Like visualizing the ball going in the basket, this practice makes it come to pass more often than not.

    This is something I am struggling with, being kind to my children while I am frustrated that I have lost all control of my summer days.

    Well,That's two issues: kindness and creating more structure.

  7. Zen Buddism teaches that in the eternal realm of things our worries, problems, etc., are insignificant. Yet simple acts of kindness can influence many. Gordon B. Hinckley, Ghandi, even Jesus Chris expressed kindness in the simplest of ways. Their actions have influenced millions and changed lives for the better.
    I'm hesitant to use a country song as a reference, but Garth Brooks once wrote that his goal was not to change the world, but for the world not to change him. So "to thine own self be true"
    Perhaps to remember the words of President Monson " be an example, not a judge, be a model, not a critic" would help us all to be more understanding and kind to others.

    1. Love those thoughts, Dad. I agree. Kindness begats kindness.

  8. rachel, i love this so much. and you. i need to work on being kinder too, so thanks for the reminder.