Here’s one mighty helpful reason why.
Whatever we praise we encourage to flourish. Unfortunately there’s a damaging flip side. Whatever we criticize or sometimes just frown at will cause a quicker, more intense and longer reaction in most people.
In any situation we can choose our emotional response. We can pick where to put our attention, feelings and intention. Emotions are energy. So, look to someone’s positive intent, especially when it appears she may have none.
“Keep what is worth keeping. And with the breath of kindness blow the rest away,” wrote English novelist, Dinah Mulock Craik. Here’s to making more opportunities to play, laugh, celebrate, and “say it better” in cultivating kindness as life’s genuine “keeper.”
Life contains few absolutes, and one of those few is that kindness usually cultivates connection, something we yearn for in a time-pressed, ear-to-the- cell-phone, relationship-diminished culture. After all, the heart can be our strongest muscle if we exercise it regularly. Yet being kind is not a guarantee of safety from hurt — nothing offers that failsafe comfort.
“Kindness and intelligence don’t always deliver us from the pitfalls and traps: there are always failures of love, of will, of imagination. There is no way to take the danger out of human relationships,” wrote Barbara Grizzuti Harrison in an article for McCall’s magazine way back in 1975.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares,” wrote Henri Nouwen in Out of Solitude.
“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate,” wrote Albert Schweitzer. “He who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love,” wrote the Greek religious leader, Saint Basil.
Kindness is often unspoken. “An eye can threaten like a loaded and leveled gun, or it can insult like hissing or kicking; or, in its altered mood, by beams of kindness, it can make the heart dance for joy,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. At another time, Emerson wrote, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
“You may be sorry that you spoke, sorry you stayed or went, sorry you won or lost, sorry so much was spent. But as you go through life, you’ll find — you’re never sorry you were kind,” said Herbert Prochnow.
“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop that makes it run over. So in a series of kindness there is, at last, one which makes the heart run over,” once wrote the Scottish lawyer and biographer, James Boswell.
“We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck . . . But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness,” wrote columnist Ellen Goodman.
From an artist’s perspective, ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov once said, “The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure.”