This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. –Dalai Lama-
I wonder if we’re not too polite sometimes. It feels like we are being more and more careful so as not to offend others. When a person who is blunt speaks their mind, they can be considered socially unskilled. But couldn’t we benefit by knowing what other people think of us, of our mindsets? Wouldn’t it help us to have other people act as our mirrors as we become more self-aware? Are we protecting each other’s egos?
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not defending hateful opinions or comments. The kind that can circulate on social media. Those attacks come from people who do not know us. Grounded in fear, those words reflect much more on the person communicating them. Discrimination against race, gender, disability, etc. is unacceptable and this must be reflected in the way we communicate. Each person is of equal importance and worthy of respect. Ideally, we would always communicate from a place of love and respect. Gently delivered, our message is much more likely to be received.
Swallow Our Pride and Open Our Mind
Driven by our egos the way we tend to be, we are sometimes blinded to the less attractive aspects of our personalities. We tend to block out what we don’t want to see. It’s so much easier to see other people’s failings than our own. But it can be helpful to know how others perceive us, for better or for worse. Just as we need encouragement and positive feedback to strengthen our self-esteem, sometimes we need to be set straight.
When our feathers are ruffled by a less than flattering comment, our immediate reaction is to consider that person rude. And often, alas, we lash out in retaliation! We block the message we don’t want to hear by invalidating the messenger. But with an open mind, we might gain some insight, some clarity about ourselves. Maybe they’re wrong. Maybe they’re right. Wouldn’t it be a good practice to decide for ourselves if the remark is valid or not?
After giving it some thought, we might decide that our behavior is harmful and that it is in our best interest to change. It takes a lot of practice and perseverance, but it can be worth our while. A lot of suffering can be avoided if we are open to seeing our flaws and willing to work on them. On the other hand, we might decide not to do anything at all. We can accept how we are at this time in our lives and learn to live with the way others perceive us.
Nice vs. Kind
My daughter Jade mentioned to me that most of the time, being gentle and warm with others is a good idea. But sometimes the kind thing to do isn’t necessarily what we think of as ‘nice’—and that could look like anything.
I agree. Nice and kind will often look the same, but kindness goes deeper. Nice is a reflex—a part of our personality. Kindness, on the other hand, takes reflection and discernment. Acting nice is a way to be pleasant but is it helpful? Isn’t kindness about being of service to others? After all, can you see yourself without some kind of mirror?
Below: Mirror image of Andrew Talbot’s painting: Release