About 10 years ago, Lisa Berry gave me a charcoal gray V neck t-shirt. In the front, it had an outline of a Buddha in a raspberry pink color. On the back, it had a quote from the Dalai Lama: “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.”
Even though the t-shirt has been worn to a threadbare state, I cannot bear to part with it. It’s not just because Lisa gave it to me, it’s because the phrase humbles me to my very core.
Last week, I had a disagreement with someone in my life about something that matters to me very much: the care of my 8 month old daughter. Perhaps because it was something so important to me, it was hard for me to rise above myself and think about how the other person was feeling as the situation unfolded. Instead, I responded from a place of fear and frustration. I completely iced out this person, who was a guest in my house.
A few days later, I had cooled down enough to be able to think about how the person must have been affected by my reaction. I felt a pang of pain in my gut. I realized I had made someone feel extremely uncomfortable. What’s worse, my reaction in no way helped her see why I was upset or how I would have preferred for her to handle the situation. I felt terrible as I realized nothing good came out of the experience.
At the same time, Lisa was trying to process the traumatic events she went through at the Ft. Lauderdale airport on January 6. While talking to her, I prayed that everyone who came into contact with her the following days be extra gentle. I knew what she needed more than anything was support, understanding, and kindness--even from perfect strangers.
I thought of the t-shirt and the Dalai Lama quote. How I wish I could always remember my truest self always wishes to be kind. How I wish I could always remember nothing matters more than how we make others feel. Not only with the people I am having relationships with, but also with those I meet randomly on the street since one never knows what they are experiencing, what they are struggling with.
And I mean this from a selfish standpoint, too. People don’t give the best of themselves in any circumstance (work environment, relationships, transactions) if they aren’t treated kindly. I think of the bosses I have had throughout my life, my parents, my teachers--it was the ones who met me at my level and spoke to me with respect who got the best out of me.
The difficulty, of course, lies in remembering how important it is to be kind when we are in a state of anger, frustration, pain or fear. A very wise person once said: “To be truly great is to be truly kind and never once forget it.” I understand these words as it takes a lot of inner strength, serenity and magnanimity to be able to kind when we ourselves feel threatened.
Perhaps my new mantra should be: “Kill them with kindness.” It’s a good reminder that kindness may seem soft and weak, but it actually disarms and gets results. This might inspire my annoyed self to abide by the wishes of my higher self. The best part is I get to keep tenderness in my heart, which is one of the most important keys to happiness.