For many years Ron Valle and I facilitated a Meditation and Spirituality group at the Awakening Center. One evening, as we were saying goodbye to those who attended, I overheard Ron describing the difference between being nice and being kind to one of our participants. I hadn't given much thought to the difference before, but his response really resonated with me.
Ron told the woman that when someone is nice they are polite, proper, acceptable, and pretty much say what the other person wants to hear. Whereas, when a person is kind they are caring, empathetic, compassionate, gentle, thoughtful and considerate. They are more authentic in their approach.
How often are we nice rather than kind? We say what we want people to hear while our minds are judging in the background.
In order to get along in the world, especially in the business world, we often think that we need to be nice. We protect our heart, and are afraid to say what is really true for us.
We all know times when we were nice to people while in our mind we felt hurt, or angry with them, or were afraid of them, or we held some other judgment toward them. Perhaps we didn't want them to think badly of us, or we were afraid we might be misunderstood, or inappropriate if we expressed our feelings. Or, perhaps we simply didn't care about them.
These reasons are fine, but to feel more alive it is helpful to look at what our mind and hearts are truly saying. Often when we are nice there is something we are not expressing. Usually we are either judging the other person or judging ourselves in some way. When we are nice to people, and at the same time our mind is thinking about them in a negative way, it doesn't help them or us.
We also all know what it is like to be kind. Most of us are kind to those who we really like. Have you noticed how easy it is to assume the positive about someone if you like that person? And, how easy it is to assume the negative if you don't like a person, or if you are angry with that person?
So much of what we tell ourselves about anyone, our loved ones as well as our enemies, are simply assumptions, or our own perspective. If we are going to assume, I believe it is better to assume the positive rather than the negative about people. In this way, as Matthew Kelly would say, it gives people the opportunity to see the best version of themselves.
To be kind takes clearing the mind of all negativity about the person and coming from the heart. Kindness has to do with staying present when we are talking with others, and really listening to what they have to say without expectations or preconceived notions. It is much more difficult to be kind. Being kind takes a lot of conscious awareness.
In order to truly be kind to others and to ourselves we need to train our mind not to be negative about anyone. It isn't about repressing what comes up for us, it is about bringing any negativity to awareness, so that we can examine it and let it go.
When we train our mind not to be negative about anyone, we give them the space to take responsibility for their behavior, and we ourselves are more free and at peace. It is like the twelve-step program says, "Let go, Let God."
These are my thoughts. Looking forward to hearing yours.
Love and Peace,
Mary Mohs LVN, MA, RYT,