#Kindness — We Have Forgotten How to be Kind

empathy on the decline in America

I live in a rural community where there is still a general expectation of kindness between people. We are fairly simple country folk and kindness and sweet tea are just two things that should always be in abundance.

But things in this great country are changing.

We are currently being conditioned by “the administration,” by the media, by social media, and by each other to seek out every difference we can find, to pick apart those differences, and to then use those differentiation as reasons to alienate, shun, and abuse each other.

Everywhere I go online I see people treating others dismissively, hatefully, and with a measure of heartless abuse. Two young women in my small community are now dead because the online bullying they were experiencing became too much to bear.

I say we are better than this.

It’s time we incorporate some #Kindness in our lives, regardless of whether we agree with the other person, whether we like their skin or not, whether we live in the same kind of home or not — because we are all humans tied with the same kind of humanity to the same earth. In fact, if you are harboring hate in your heart towards any group of people based on these things — I challenge you to grow as a person. I assure you if you hate an entire group of people — the problem is you. Hate hate and terrible behaviors…not people.

Kindness is sometimes in the job description — but that is not enough.

Treating people kindly shouldn’t be just something we are required to do, but something that comes from the heart. For example, I shop in a lovely grocery store in my town called Lowe’s Foods not for the availability of the grocery items I am looking for, or the arrangement of goods on the shelves, but for the kindness of the store clerks. When I cannot find an item, I am quickly assisted with a smile. When I am checking out, regardless of my mood or however complicated my number of coupons or number of payment methods, they are friendly and courteous and helpful. But kindness is in the job description, right?

If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.
–Bob Hope

I don’t think the customers there are following the same manuscript. It seems as the years pass there are more people in line behind me huffing because they are in a hurry, more people snapping at the clerks, more people, in general, just complaining even in the midst of smiling faces. A problem can still be handled with tactfulness. As long as two people are working together, surely a solution over the price of Spam can be reached?

The science of kindness and compassion

According to the Compassionate Action network, compassion is defined by emotion researchers as the feeling that arises when one is confronted by the suffering of another individual and is compelled to do something to relieve that other person’s suffering. This is a normal human response.

My question is, what is happening in today’s society to block this normal human response? Or better asked, what is happening to discourage this human response? Have we gotten so self-absorbed as a society as to elevate our own needs and pre-thought notions, especially those of time and judgement: “I am in a hurry. I need to get home and start dinner. I want to watch this TV show or read this article. Can’t this person just shut up? You know they are wrong for wearing that. Ugh, I hate people like that.” — so much so that we can no longer be bothered with the needs of others?

When we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection — or compassionate action.

— Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

In an article on The Science of Compassion, the Compassionate Action Network discussed how kindness and compassion can improve our lives. It can reduce the risk of heart disease by boosting the positive effects of the Vagus Nerve, helping to slow our heart rate. It can help people become more resilient to stress, strengthen the immune response, make people more socially adept thereby reducing the negative health effects of loneliness.

That “feel good” feeling you get when you are kind to someone has a biological component. This is due to the release of endogenous opioids, causing elevated levels of dopamine in the brain. This gives us what some call a “helper’s high.” The emotional warmth we feel is due to oxytocin releasing nitric oxide causing a reduction in blood pressure. There is even research suggesting that kindness helps to slow aging and to reduce inflammation.

Kill them with kindness

— my mother, borrowed from mothers everywhere.

Those are all great arguments as to why we should be kind and how it would help –ourselves. But shouldn’t we take some time to consider how we’ve been treating the people we come in contact with on a daily basis, and how we might improve that–for them? Not based on the merit of those interactions, or the perceived worth of the receiving individual, or whether or not you stand on the same side of the political fence or church steeple or bank parking lot as that person, but just for the purpose of serving our community? Bettering the community we live in and lifting others around us even with small doses of positivity?

I say yes — we can do better.

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Have a wonderful day and I hope that you find many things in this day that bring you genuine smiles.

𝘐 𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘮𝘺 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘢 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭-𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘳. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘰𝘢𝘥 𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘴 𝘮𝘺 𝘫𝘢𝘮.

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