It’s time to be nice. Loosen those grumpy pants. No need for them right now. You can put them back on after January 1st.
It’s time to be jolly, a friend jokingly says to me. “I love this time of the year. You know why? Because everyone is happy, finally! They’re finally out of their cranky moods and are nice to strangers even. Just think.”
Christmas has that effect. At the holidays we have an epiphany and realize that we really should be nice to each other. Shocking.
I wonder though why year round we don’t have that desire, why we don’t notice those around us, why we don’t say hello to the stranger, and most of all why we don’t even share those small acts of kindness with our loved ones. But once a year, we plow through packed parking lots and a thicket of shoppers to get a trinket that will embody our kindness and love for a dear friend or family member.
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness,” is what the Dalai Lama famously uttered. And he said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Now he has been quoted endlessly for this simple thought. But it’s true. It’s always possible – not just every December. Above the other paths we follow, be it religion, profession, vocation, we should consider kindness.
Even ancient thinkers such as Aristotle wrote of a selfless kindness that supersedes your needs for other’s needs. Nietzsche referred to kindness, which is the premise of love, as one of the “most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse.” But, really this is not rocket science. As we know kindness begets kindness.
And no, this is no hokey pokey Miss World speech. But as many philosophical and spiritual texts tell us, the thoughts that we have form who we are: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” So kind thoughts form a more empathetic soul.
That’s why it’s imperative: for us to be happy spirits and live in a community that works, that’s interlinked. Those kind souls then look at the world with a different lens: they are more gentle towards the earth, towards their bodies, and towards those around them.
The grudges that we hold year-round, the frustrations that eat us and fray our hairs into gray strands, the disputes that we refuse to compromise on, the situations that we resist to look at from another angle – they all eat away that kindness. Yet, the only thing that can diffuse them is kindness.
As I smacked golf balls on the range last week for the first time (an exercise largely to amuse myself and my instructor), my instructor said something simple but kind: “We’re all fragile.” Hence, a dose of kindness is essential, not just the polite thing to do it. Or as Plato wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
After the horrific incident in Newton earlier this week, NBC journalist Ann Curry threw out this idea – why not we counter the sad and ruthless event with acts ofkindness. Quickly the message spread on Twitter and a new hashtag was eating up the Twitter feed: #26Acts. And folks on Twitter began sharing kind ideas. Since Sunday, almost 200,000 messages about this wave of goodwill have appeared on social media, coming from places far as Afghanistan, Russia, and Finland. Words translated into action, smacking down barriers.
Kindness echoes, unites, forgives, pacifies, and nurtures. It’s a rather universal medicine not just for others but for ourselves. It reminds us that we’re part of something bigger. The key is to be kind at the core, not just on the surface. Empty words of kindness are about as nice as stale fruitcake.
So, consider retiring those grumpy pants this year.