The etiquette of kindness



“Whether one believes in religion or not – there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness,” the Dalai Lama, leader of Tibetan Buddhists once observed. He added that love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.

What is kindness? The dictionary defines kindness as being friendly, warm-hearted, courteous, thoughtful, understanding, compassionate and considerate of the other. The practice of kindness consists of little acts – a word of thanks, a smile for a job well done, a hug for a friend, a warm greeting to a stranger, a helping hand for one in need, an encouraging word to someone who is undergoing difficulty. When these simple acts are done with love and without any hidden agenda, they become genuine, authentic acts of kindness.

It isn’t the bold initiatives, grand strategies or great ideas that make a difference to most people. It is the simple acts of loving kindness that bring people together, promote harmony and cooperation, and form the heart of morality and Christian kindness that our social existence is best anchored on.

Kindness flows out of a generous and an empathic heart, a listening ear and a shoulder willing to be cried on. I am sure that we have all experienced that many times a kind word and a sympathetic smile can lift one’s spirits and encourage one to be hopeful about the future.

Let’s look closer at the etiquette of kindness. We should not think that being kind is only applicable to humans. One author says that in Earth etiquette, we don’t walk on flowers or leave trash in the parks or otherwise pollute the environment. In house etiquette, we don’t ignore or abuse our possessions or indulge in ostentatious display of the things we accumulate. In animal etiquette, we don’t ridicule our pets or work animals, or frighten them, or train them to frighten others.

The practice of kindness must find its root deep within our hearts. There is the story that Mohandas Gandhi once settled in a village to serve the villagers there. When asked about his motives, Gandhi replied that he was there to find his own self-realization through the service to the village folk. He believed that as we serve others we are enriching ourselves, that when we serve others with an open, kind and generous heart, great healing comes to us.

The etiquette of kindness must be a part of our daily life, the basic fabric by which we weave our future and our children’s future. It encompasses meaningful acts of love, words of comfort and encouragement, generosity of spirit, and an attitude of gratitude toward God, our Creator, for our very life.

I would even say that kindness is the rent each of us pays for living.