Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Absence of Unkindness is NOT the Presence of Kindness

A Valentine’s Prayer

The history of most traditional holidays can be traced back to the coming together of diverse peoples with their diverse religions and secular customs that were often combined. Regardless, for many, Valentine’s Day is dedicated to connecting heart-to-heart with those we love and care for. It’s about remembering that the most important role of our humanity is “who we touch and how we touch them” for I truly believe this is all we get to take with us.

The question that this holiday brings forward for me is an age old one that humanity must revisit daily…”Am I my brother’s keeper” and “who is my brother?” It seems like more and more people are opting to make their circles of brotherhood smaller and smaller…it feels like a regression. Maybe this Valentine’s Day we can reverse this trend bought on by increasing “in-group” versus “out-group” ideologies and “special interest” rhetoric.

Remembering the old adage “Actions speak louder than Words”, I began noticing that most people in my small sphere of life are not intentionally unkind. Really…most people do not go out of their way to harm others. As a matter of fact, it appears that most people have a great aversion to causing or being the receptor of pain. They do not want to experience unkindness and they seek not to be unkind. As humans we tend to be so self-preoccupied, that we don’t even have time to think about making someone else’s life miserable, except if you are living a reality TV show, BUT…

How are we at being KIND? Yeah, I know many would say they wouldn’t “hurt a fly” if they didn’t have to, right? But would you intentionally go out of your way to be kind to someone not in your in-group? Kindness when practiced is intentional, in the moment, in a present state of awareness or forethought. Whether it’s holding the door open for someone behind you or remembering to hold-up a community experiencing a tragedy in prayer; it’s an intentional thing. The opportunity for kindness often appears in the moment or instance it can be executed. The moment is often brief and fades quickly especially if our mental chatter and personal preoccupations have us so self-absorbed we miss it! Yes, I believe this is often the case for most of us.

I mean think about it…most people are not trying to be intentionally unkind but the absence of unkindness is NOT the presence of kindness! Where is the purposeful-life filled with simple, loving, humane acts of kindness to those in and out of our daily sphere of life? Could this be the “missing link” to a “gentler, kinder nation”, the “good Samaritan” community? Even the words we speak. Many have challenged themselves to cease using their tongues to harm, defame or discourage those around them, including their own selves! They have come to understand and believe there is POWER IN THE WORD! But have we learned to intentionally use our words and actions to intentionally bless, praise, and encourage others? A smile goes a long way and has very little value unless you give it away!!!

Instead of concentrating only on not “harming” anyone, why not practice “kindness mindfulness”. In Galatians 5:22, it speaks of the fruits of the spirit and “Goodness” is one. Do you think God intends goodness as a synonym for kindness? If so, those of us who choose to live in the humanity of love, mercy and grace, have a huge responsibility to “enlarge the borders” of God’s intentional love and kindness.  We must be vigilant, open and aware of the moments of kindness God shares with us and allows us to share with others…ALL others. Stop looking the “other-way” the “self-way”. Question: Do random acts of kindness enrich our lives, benefit the giver?  I am sure you already know the answer; if not, try it and see. Nothing to lose, everything to gain!

This Valentine’s Day and each day forward, move beyond the absence of unkindness into the intentional, purposeful acts of kindness to everyone we have opportunity to give. If we preach it, teach it, do it and pass-it-forward a change is gonna come! Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! Tag, you’re it!

Author, P.S. Perkins

CCO, Human Communication Institute, LLC