By Daniel Scharpenburg
I want to talk about a thing that happens a lot in life.
We see people and we don’t meet them with kindness, with an open heart. We sometimes reserve our Bodhisattva intention. But that’s not what we’re supposed to be doing, and we come up with all sorts of excuses for this.
“She brought this upon herself.”
“He is wrong about this issue that is important to me.”
“She has this irritating trait.”
“He just didn’t try as hard in life as me.”
Or “That person is just too different from me. They aren’t part of my tribe or my religion or my country.”
Even: “I can’t show them kindness. They are acting like a victim all the time.”
Show them kindness anyway.
Often we don’t even know we’re doing it, but we do it. We build walls between ourselves and others. But what if we didn’t? What if we were able to come into all our human interactions with an open heart and mind? What if we were just nice to each other—just showing kindness to others without worrying about whether or not they deserve it?
Because they all deserve it.
We’re all the same. We’re all struggling in this life as we slowly grow older and ultimately enter the grave. This alone should make us be nicer to each other. But it doesn’t, necessarily. We get caught up in our arbitrary differences and we push people away all the time instead of engaging them, showing them kindness and loving them.
And we see all the suffering in the world and we think we can’t possibly make a difference.
But we can. You can.
Greet everyone with an open heart and mind, without stopping to think about if they deserve it. Be grateful to the people that have helped you. Be grateful to the people that have taught you patience too. Say thank you more. Admit when you’ve made mistakes and try to make things better.
Ask someone about their day, in a way that makes it clear that you’re really listening.
I once read a T-shirt that said, “Practice kindness, sprinkle that shit everywhere.” It seems sentimental or trite to say, “Just be nice.” But honestly, we can change the world if we do. And this isn’t sensitive schmaltzy hallmark card nonsense. Meeting the world with an open heart is hard. It requires bravery and dedication. Because it sometimes seems this world is constantly trying to get you to close your heart.
Let’s keep our hearts open anyway. The world needs more of that. It’s got plenty of judgmental and harsh folks already, so let’s just be the nice ones. Let us be the bodhisattvas.
Because we can.
“May I become at all times, both now and forever: a protector for those without protection; a guide for those who have lost their way; a ship for those with oceans to cross; a bridge for those with rivers to cross; a sanctuary for those in danger; a lamp for those without light; a place of refuge for those who lack shelter; and a servant to all in need”
-Shantideva, the Bodhisattva Prayer
Editor: Dana Gornall
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