4 Principles of Genuine Kindness
By Charles Glassman, MD, FACP
I know what you are probably thinking, “Speak for yourself. It’s not hard for me. I’m a kind person, it’s everyone else who isn’t kind.”
Well here in lies the greatest obstacle to creating a world where kindness is the unwritten law of the land; the habit of humanity; the definition of our existence. The obstacle to this is the fact that humankind has relinquished control to our primitive nature, controlled and orchestrated by (what I call) our automatic brain.
Let me digress, briefly, to shed light on this brain. Our automatic brain is the same brain as our cave dwelling ancestors and the major driving force in animals (including us Homo sapiens). It does not think (i.e. lacks consciousness) and only reacts. It reacts to anything it picks up as potentially dangerous, threatening, or causing us to feel vulnerable. When any of these are detected it automatically reacts causing us to fight or flee. How does it know what is dangerous? Through a lifetime of storing information.
When I say this brain doesn’t think, that is different from the idea generating thoughts. It can cause us to have thoughts if those thoughts help us to fight or flee danger. For example, let’s say you grew up in a home where you were taught that rich people were evil. As you grew and became more educated, it led you to a career where you began to enjoy financial success. All of a sudden you begin to develop negative thoughts about yourself and feel anxiety. Why?
So let’s get back to kindness. I have highlighted the existence of a primitive nature controlled by a very basic reactive brain, the automatic brain (AB, for short). All humans possess this equally. But there is another part of us humans—a higher mind: reflective and conscious, pure and powerful—a gateway to our Divine nature. This is from where genuine kindness arises
But our AB is quite creative in how it protects us from so-called danger. Some people over the centuries have viewed the AB as ego or even the Devil. It can use kind acts to manipulate and to gain power over another. As well, being kind toward another may trigger danger as this brain may pick up that you are placing yourself in a vulnerable position and therefore the AB will cause you to fight or flee being kind; thus, the complexity and difficulty of being kind.
So how do we practice kindness with purity and from our Divine nature rather than orchestrated by our AB, and hence, our primitive nature?
1. Give with no expectations
In other words, give with no strings attached. When we give with expectations of something in return, that is a sign our AB is taking the lead. When we expect something in return, that indicates our AB is trying to use kindness to gain the upper hand, thus insulating us from the danger of others taking advantage, or manipulating, us. Giving for display purposes, i.e. for the purposes of being viewed by others as a good person, may have immediate benefits on those to whom you give, but ultimately since it comes from the AB, will not nurture the Divine and genuine. In my mind, authentic giving without expectation leads to receiving without limitation.
2. Understand that self-sacrifice often leads to self-sabotage
Surely it’s good to give of yourself, right? However, some of the greatest givers have allowed their own lives and families to fall apart. That is a sign that poverty and lack has somehow been programmed in their memory backs as something with which they are comfortable and the opposite as something dangerous (as the example above). In order to be connected with true Divine kindness, you must first keep your own house in order—adequate (preferably abundant) food, clothing, and shelter. When you sacrifice yourself at the expense of others, you will block the access to true kindness, likely leading to resentment, inner anger, and even jealousy. Another way to look at this is a drowning person cannot help someone else who is drowning.
3. Practice the Golden Rule
The most familiar version of the Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Certainly, we would want others to be friendly, genuine, and considerate toward us, so it would make sense to do the same to others. Naturally, our AB will warn us that such action can make us more vulnerable. Such warnings are typical characteristics of the AB, which is forever scouring the landscape 24/7 for evidence of things that can hurt us. Don’t trust those warnings and practice this rule and realize we are all in this earth-boat together.
4. Radiate Kindness
Have you ever described someone as having a “kind face” or say someone has “kind eyes.” I have. When you go through your days, no matter how stressful, maintain an upright posture, a smile on your face, and widen yours eyes (not in a creepy sort of way!). You can check in occasionally by viewing yourself in the mirror of a car, for instance. When you walk down the street envision your eyes sparkling, your face aglow, and your lips smiling. This will attract kindness to you and make your practice easier—more consistent with the Divine within you.
I think we can all agree that giving a homeless person a piece of bread or place a shirt on their back is an act of kindness. But what if you saw a millionaire in need of help. Or saw anyone in need of help who you perceived to have more than you or who was more powerful than you? Could you be kind to that person? You see, our AB does have us discriminating as a protective, defensive mechanism. “Why should I help that dude? They don’t help me?” (Hey, remember the first item on this list?!). Or you may be thinking, “They don’t need me to be kind. They can pay people to be kind to them.” You will find that when you follow your Divine instinct for kindness, you will not discriminate. I suspect, also, this practice will draw more kindness in your direction in ways you cannot even imagine.
There is probably no greater place than the concept of kindness, which highlights the difference between our primitive and Divine natures. Approaching others using the five principles above will help you not to believe, trust, or take direction from your primitive nature and will throw open the gates to the Divine, unveiling your pure potential, life purpose, and ultimately genuine success.
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