Having a blog with hundreds of thousands of readers, I receive tons of messages from them on a daily basis. Most of them are kind and supportive, for which I am grateful beyond words. There are some readers, however, who tend to send me messages you’d call anything but kind — they are unfriendly, negative, rage-filled.
I usually think I can understand why that happens: maybe what I’m writing goes against their conditioning or touches a hidden psychological wound, and they react this way as a defense mechanism. For example, I’ve found that whenever I publish an article against dogmatic, fear-based religion, many people seem to jump out of their chair and pour all their hatred through their keyboard, which merely shows how insecure they are about their religious beliefs, and that, being so attached to a particular dogma, they feel that when I’m attacking their dogma I am actually attacking them. So, their natural reaction is to fight back by sending me those kinds of messages.
Beware, I am not talking about criticism here — I like receiving constructive criticism and I always take it into serious consideration. Criticism, when done with good intentions, can be mind-changing and hence life-transforming. What I’m talking about is people who don’t provide any counterarguments to the points I make in my writings at all — they just call me names and a few of them even “threaten” me that they’ll unsubscribe from my blog if I don’t stop posting this kind of articles (as if I’d care a bit — I always honestly express myself here, no matter how unpopular or controversial my ideas might be. I don’t care about losing followers — what I care about is sincere communication with my readers above anything else).
I don’t confront unkind behavior on the Internet alone, but also in “real life” (to a lesser extent, of course, since I don’t interact with as many people there as I do online, and since in face-to-face encounters people tend to be more careful of the way they act). In fact, thinking more about how often I come across people who behave unkindly, it seems that the world is pretty much filled with unkind people. So, the question is, why is that the case? Why do so many people show little to no kindness towards their fellow humans?
The Roots of Unkindness
Have a look around you and you’ll see that competition prevails almost everywhere. That’s because from a very young age people learn to compete with each other — they compete with their siblings, they compete with their classmates, they compete with their colleagues, they compete with their friends and partners.
Competition is a big part of our everyday life. In fact, much of society as we know it is structurally based on competition. Consider, for example, our global economic system. Due to the artificial scarcity created by money, people have to compete with one another in order to “earn a living“. Born in this system, we think of competition as an inevitable part of nature that we need to accept and take part in.
We believe that competing is a good thing, and that those who are better at it are also better at living. But what does that mean? That our well-being depends on outdoing others. If others are better than us, then the quality of our lives is automatically diminished. No wonder we don’t wish others well (except, perhaps, a few people who are very close to our hearts) and care only about our personal gain. In fact, we are so afraid of each other that we have built a thick wall between us in order to feel safe and protected. This is quite obvious by the way so many of us interact with those we come in contact with. We don’t treat them with kindness, compassion, and love. We’re cold, distant, and show almost no affection at all. Feeling so disconnected from others, we’ve forgotten our humanity.
Unkindness, therefore, has psychological roots, which are reinforced by the way our society is structured. And although unkindness is present all around us, few of us are able to see the tremendous negative impacts it is having on ourselves, both on an individual and a societal level.
The Consequences of Unkindness
Because of our way of living, a lot of us experience immense suffering. If you observe people (yourself included), you’ll likely realize that most of them don’t enjoy the life they’re living — in fact, they hate much of it and wish they could put an end to it as it is. They wish to leave their past behind and start living anew in a way that would bring them contentment, but they don’t know how to achieve that.
What is it that brings humans contentment the most? The answer is simple: loving relationships. No matter how much monetary or material wealth one possesses, if one’s heart is empty of love, one is bound to be in a constant state of emotional pain. And when we are afraid of others and compete against them, how can genuine loving relationships be formed? They can’t, for love needs trust, intimacy and friendship. That’s why so many of us we feel lonely and alienated — we see the world as being outside, separate from us that we need to fight against or flee from.
Our worldview has separated us from one another, causing us immense suffering, and that sense of separation inevitably leads us to behave in unkind ways, which separates us even more. Being unkind to others, we urge them to be unkind toward us, and they then in turn urge us to be even more unkind to them. As you can understand, we’re trapped in a never-ending cycle of unkindness, and unless we decide to break it, we’ll never manage to discover peace and joy.
All spiritual masters through the ages have been teaching about the importance of cultivating kindness and a compassionate, non-judgmental attitude towards each other. For the majority of people, this seems like an extremely difficult task. No matter how kind and compassionate we try to be, living among unkind people we are quickly drawn to unkind behavior. So, how can one remain kind even when one confronts unkindness? Or, most importantly, is it possible at all to be kind in an unkind world?
In my experience, it certainly is. I’m not talking about pretending to be nice to people, but to actually care about and show affection to them. I’m talking about having a heart-to-heart communication with others, treating them with respect, and having a friendly attitude towards them. For that to happen, however, our worldview needs to change. Up to now, our worldview has been that of separation — I am here, you are there… we are separate from each other. This sense of separation has led to all the conflict that prevails in the world, and the only way to end it is to realize that separation is merely an illusion. In reality, we are all connected on a very deep level, and our well-being depends on the well-being of those around us. Therefore, what we do to others, we do to ourselves, and vice versa. Only when we understand this, will our hearts be filled with kindness. Then, kindness will be our default state of being, and we’ll express it in every aspect of our lives.
Sowing the Seeds of Kindness
I am well aware that not all people will wake up one day soon and start loving each other, but I firmly believe that each one of us can from this very moment start behaving in a kinder way, and this can make a tremendous impact on the world: kindness will spread from heart to heart like a blazing fire, but instead of burning it will be a calming force that heals whomever it touches along its way.
By performing acts of kindness, we’re sowing the seeds of love. Of course, it might take some time before they sprout and take root, but sooner or later they inevitably will. Then, they will bloom into warm hugs, gentle words and generous smiles.
Sow the seeds of love, my friends.