“I’m kind, but not stupid…”
This has been my mantra for some time now and it is something that I’m not passing on to our daughters.
When I started delving into spiritual practice, I thought I had to be kind to everyone. Jesus was kind, right? So, kindness it was. But in those early days of clumsily practising extreme kindness, I thought it meant being kind, no matter what; turning the other cheek, being effusively kind. Giving, giving and then giving some more (I swear that I became well known amongst the street vendors and homeless people in the Mexican town where I lived), it was uncomfortable being so kind. Thinking back, I did fancy the idea of myself being a spiritual master, floating through life, being kind to everyone. The funny thing was, that my well intentioned kindness wasn’t always well received, in fact, sometimes it was taken for granted or I was perceived as being gullible and a pushover. And that’s when I realised that my munificence was actually a teensy bit self serving.
Luckily for me, around that time I began practising vipassana meditation and was introduced to the practice of ‘metta’, usually translated into English as loving-kindness. It’s a dynamic practice that stretches our usually narrow concept of kindness and challenges us to apply it to people we believe we are indifferent to, or even hate. It was during this practice that I realised that my definition of kindness was very subjective and the concepts of who I felt ‘deserved’ my kindness began to fall away.
After years of practice, my kindness no comes from a much deeper, much more anchored place. I’m not a pushover, I’m not overly kind to all and sundry. It’s a measured and compassionate kindness. I don’t get caught up in the drama of other people’s stories, of people who play the victim to get what they want and I don’t allow people to energy feed off me. But the kindness and compassion is there and serves as my true compass.
It is this that I want to teach our daughters. We have brought them up to be kind and considerate of other people’s feelings. We have taught them that it’s much more graceful to move through life operating from a place of kindness. Kindness is usually met with kindness… except when it isn’t. With our eldest daughter, who is now 9, we are seeing that some people, at present her teacher, seem to think that she is some kind of saint, that her kindness knows no bounds. She is being sat with ‘difficult’ kids in her class, the assumption being that she will help them and help them and then help them some more. But no. This is not how true kindness operates and we are teaching her this now. Kindness does not mean that she is a pushover and will bend over backwards to help others. True kindness means saying no to situations that do not serve her. True kindness is her strength, not her weakness, and it comes from a strong foundation of self confidence and self awareness.
This is why I made her the card. It’s hand lettered by me, imbuing it with all the fierce, compassionate energy I want her to feel as she moves through this life. I had originally thought of having it on a t-shirt but thought it was too combative, too challenging. I’m going to laminate the card so she can carry it with her, as a reminder of the true power of kindness. I gave it to her yesterday and she immediately asked for it to be on a t-shirt (one of the perks of having a dad who screen prints)… this gives me hope for her future.
PS. I also had to draw another one immediately after for our youngest daughter, age 6… I guess you’re never to young…
As always, if any of this resonates with you, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below…