Opening ourselves to the possibilities of kindness

Jul 4, 2021 | 6 comments

The novelist Jack Kerouac wrote in a letter to his first wife and lifelong friend, Edie Parker: “If you practice kindness, patience and generosity all day, and to everybody, you will realize you are already in heaven.” And yet, somehow, despite our sincerest intentions and the wisdom offered by its practitioners, we repeatedly fall short of achieving this earthly divinity.

Instead, and as has been aptly observed over generations, too many of us are never as kind or generous as we need to be, but think nothing of expressing outrage toward those we perceive as being insufficiently attentive or generous.

The writer, George Saunders, nearing the end of his life, confessed with unsentimental ruefulness: “What I regret most in my life is my failure to practice kindness.” I doubt any decent person, upon candid reflection, would rank any other kind of regret higher.

To be human is to leap toward our highest moral potentialities, even as we trip over the cobblestones of shortcomings stumbling our reflexive patterns. To be a good human is to keep leaping regardless. The kinder and more thoughtful a person, the more kindness they can find in other people. Kindness enriches our lives; with mysterious things becoming clear, difficult things become easy, and dull things become cheerful.

If you respond with kindness, patience, and understanding toward the evils done to you, you will neutralize whatever pleasure was derived from evil and, whoever the perpetrator may be. The ill wind of selfish discontent and impatience permeating our lives will dissipate just as low-hanging clouds do when warmed with the first light of morning.

Kindness is for your soul as health is for your body: you do not notice it when you have it, but if it is neglected or infected with impatience and anger, it becomes a cancer that will permeate your soul with fatal consequences from which one may never recover.

A person becomes happier to the same extent to which he or she gives service to others. It is the road to fulfillment.

The capacity for love is made manifest only when a person can sacrifice him- or herself for another person. Only when a person forgets themself for the sake of another and lives for another creature can we find the full manifestation of true love, and only in this love do we see the blessing and reward of life. This is the foundation of the world.

Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness. Kindness awakens us to the possibilities of the future while rooting us in the present.