Murky Kindness. Loving Kindness.

Kindness is very precious indeed. Because I feel no need for others to be kind to me, I appreciate it more deeply now when I see it.

Loving kindness feels like a soft breeze or a gentle touch – a gift that takes nothing in return and moves onward. When received at a time of great despair, such kindness has an almost otherworldly quality. But, this kindness is very much of this world and can be offered by any of us at the right moment.

Timing is one of the most important aspects of our lives. When I see situations unfolding, I feel a distinct difference between the right and wrong time to act. To me, this looks like countless doors against a dark backdrop – some are closed, and some open and remain open for a time. The open doors are opportunities to act and interact. So, I watch and listen for these opportunities. I’ve learned the pointlessness of going after the “closed doors.” Where do I “see” these doors? Not in space. They are an analogy to how I feel and connect to life.

Recently, I’ve watched a number of videos pop up on social media showing someone offering something to a homeless person. It is not too difficult to tell that most of these videos are of the “murky kindness” variety – someone seeking to get “Likes” by appearing generous and kind to others. Such displays are not really about making an offering to another life, but more about getting more popular and monetizing popularity.

We get into murky waters when we attach demands to what we give to others. Then, unmet demands bring on resentment, bitterness, and disappointment: I did such a good thing. How dare people not appreciate me for what I gave? Many of our demands are unconscious, which makes it difficult for us to even recognize that we really want as much or more than we are giving. In truth, appreciating someone is challenging when there were strings attached or the gift crushed a fragile sense of self.

We also step into murky waters when we offer something to someone who doesn’t need it. We may want to help someone because it makes us feel good. We make assumptions about what a being needs and act on these assumptions without verifying that the need is real.

It requires sensitivity to recognize who does and does not need help from us. Because most people are here to build their own strength and awareness, they will openly refuse help or a “handout” – they won’t stay in shelters or halfway houses. Of course, addiction is also a factor. Unfortunately, some helpers are more needy than the ones they are helping, and they end up missing the mark with what they think they are giving.

Of course, some people genuinely do need help, and then we can reach out with heart first – then hand. Interstingly, people do not need help or kindness all of the time, but only in certain moments. On some level, we know that it is not up to any single individual to take permanent responsibility for every life that appears to lack something. Instead, we know that we need to help most people to help themselves as much as they are able. And yet, there are those who appear to drown themselves in giving or wishing they could give, while dreaming of what they can take in return.

For millennia, human life has been about some people having more than others. The ones who have little still depend on a neighbor, community, or strangers every day to help them live one day at a time. These people live with constant uncertainty. They may even forget to think about the next day. Poverty is a challenging life – I know it.

Why does poverty exist? Why is there an imbalance built into life where some have more than others? Why do some people have much more than they need? What is the right thing to do about it?

This setup deserves further study and a better understanding of where we fit in. Kindness is much more than giving things: it is more about seeing – truly seeing – a person for who they are. Loving kindness is a living presence and an honoring of our interconnection. Murky kindness is when objects are exchanged or given without connection and devotion.

Most people mean well and look for the right things to do. Often, the right thing requires a change in how we, as a society, assign value to individual lives. And a life that does not value itself will see that reflected back. No single individual is responsible for poverty and need, and no single individual can be a “solution.”

Kind leaders must set a strong tone for valuing life without sending contradicting messages. All people must make the time to show interest in the lives of others without intrusion. At some point, there will be greater balance in society as a whole so that life is honored at all levels. For now, we can wait for those open doors and forget ourselves while giving. Then, we must forget that we gave. That looks like loving kindness. There are no demands and no strings attached. There is no fear of deeply feeling another’s presence because we are not as separate as we believe.

We know we can’t give everything away and live. We know we can’t keep taking and honor the lives of others. Eventually, we will learn that kindness goes beyond helping someone’s survival or emotional strife, way beyond.

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