Kindness is a difficult virtue to pursue in a world that seems to have become accustomed to hatred and injustice. Isn't that all the more reason that we need it, writes Sadullah Khan.
In a materialistic era, a world seemingly indifferent to caring about others, where ego and selfishness dominates, where war and oppression are daily headlines, there is a greater need for kindness than ever before. By kindness, however, I do not imply those actions of enlightened self-interests where one acts in response to the kindness displayed by others (an act of exchange for the benefit one has received), but rather as a moral duty that emanates from a caring heart.
Kindness without discrimination
It is easier being kind to those whom we consider deserving of our sympathy, but true kindness means practicing generosity of heart without discrimination. We may find ourselves wrestling with the apparent irregularity of being kind to those who have not treated us well; where our kindness may not stop the recipient from being hostile or inconsiderate towards us. It is when we display kindness in these circumstances that we present the best of ourselves. How magnanimous the mercy of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) at the conquest of Makkah when he readily forgave the Makkans who had for years persecuted, excommunicated and exiled him, his family and followers. Here was an expression of kindness from a merciful one that emanated from a forgiving and a loving heart.
Simple acts of kindness
Practicing daily acts of kindness is an essential element of fruitful living. Sharing kindness with others is the most rewarding and fulfilling act one can engage in. There is nothing more comforting, more gratifying for a conscientious soul than knowing that through a kind word, a helpful act, a cheerful smile you made someone's burden a little lighter, a day little brighter or situation a little more pleasant. A kind and generous act will go further, mean more, last longer and be remembered long after the prism of politeness or complexion of courtesy has faded away.
Condition the self to be reflective rather than reflexive, ponder the consequence of one's action and reactions. This demands that if someone is rude, if someone is impatient, if someone is unkind; I will not respond in like manner. I will carefully choose and guard my words, being certain that I do not spread gossip, slander or malign anyone in any way. I will find ways to help and share the burden of another person. I will find ways to make life more pleasant. I will do my utmost to forgive any hurt or injuries that come my way. I will treat others as I wish to be treated in every encounter. All this, for I know that my smile, my words, my expression or support, can make the difference to someone who is wrestling with a misfortune of life.
Prayer of Francis of Assisi
A well-known prayer of an Italian Christian priest, founder of the Franciscan religious order, Francis of Assisi, captures the spirit of selflessness that springs from a loving heart. He prayed:
O Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Lord, grant that I may not so much seek ...
to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love..."
Kindness is never wasted
If kindness has no effect on the recipient, it at least benefits the bestower; so kindness is never wasted. Do remember however that one cannot do an act of kindness too soon, for one never knows how soon it will be too late. Kindness is indeed a most noble quality, a characteristic of the Supreme Being. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: "Allah is kind and loves kindness in every matter".
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