Kindness has been on my mind a lot lately. Everywhere I look, there’s finger-pointing, arguing, and incompatibility as if something found its way into the drinking water and tainted the mind of quite literally everyone. I’m guilty of this myself as I find myself at wit’s end with people on several issues. Even so, the world around me is not one I recognize or embrace – and it hurts. It hurts to watch people hurt people because they are hurting themselves. A common bond of a society so deeply entrenched in its hostility.
The meditation called for us to think about ourselves as kids and how we so eagerly wanted to be loved. How we wanted to belong. How we wanted to be recognized. How we wanted to feel safe. The mediation asked us to bring back those feeling as if we were our childhood selves. I admittedly struggled with this because much of my childhood was spent craving these things from the people who were put on this earth to provide them to me. But I remember those feelings vividly. I remember many nights crying myself to bed because I thought something was wrong with me. Or no one understood me. Or, even worse, that the world would be better without me. A sentiment I struggled with more frequently than I am comfortable admitting here. Those feelings run deep and revisiting them helped reorient me. The mediation reminded us that even though those were childhood feelings, they never really left us. As adults, we crave these things even if we are less honest with ourselves about them. I know I’m not.
Going deeper, the meditation asked us to think of someone with whom we’ve had a conflict in the past week. Unfortunately, after a tiff over vaccine mandates on Facebook, my list of people was long. I was able to choose one person with whom I was the angriest. Thinking about the conversation again made me hot. The meditation called on us to apply our childhood feeling of kindness to that person. It asked us to think about if that person may be having a similar reaction to the lack of kindness they experienced from the interaction. I could feel the guilt climbing up my throat. As I briefly cleaned the frog in my throat, I sat with this feeling of guilt. I knew this was not the point of the mediation, but I knew I had not been spreading kindness the way I wanted to receive it.
There it was — the Golden Rule at play. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. “Shit!” I thought. How could I have lost myself like that to the point where I couldn’t see a person as a person. That’s when it hit me that this isn’t unique to me. I thought about a story a friend had shared where she lashed out at her family for trying to help her. Her words seared onto her mother’s brain. Words she didn’t mean but said because, at that moment, she saw her mom as a target and not her mother.
This to me is the crux of the issue. We too often see other people — especially those with whom we do not agree — as targets and not people. We interpret a difference of opinion as an attack. We see people who do not take the same stance as us as standing against us. We believe we are right — so right — that we can never be wrong, so we tell everyone else they are wrong. We are all ready to die on our respective hills and for what?
It’s not lost on me how we got here: A global pandemic that took so much from all of us. An economic recession called into question our value as workers. Systemic injustices that raised awareness of the already simmering racial tensions in America. I could go on, but you get the point. We live in a time I hate to call unique, but it is. We are all hurting in some way and if we just remembered our childhood selves and our yearning for kindness, if each of us just dug a little deeper, that is where we will find kindness.