Kindness Credit Score

Only your compassion
and your loving kindness
are invincible, and without limit.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Within each of us is this vast ocean of goodness and kindness lapping up on the shores of our lives every day. But we resist opening our hearts and minds to these enormous reservoirs of love and goodwill. And as the great and late Thich Nhat Hanh has told us compassion and kindness are limitless. Infinite. I am so grateful to be able to experience and often see the abundance of kindness, the possibility of kindness, the ubiquity of kindness.

My mother used to tell me: Treat people where they are and who they will be.

Kindness emerges when you start to understand the totality of the person, the circumstance. The fragility of the seed and the majesty of the future tree. The point in time that was influenced by matters unknown and the hopeful possibility that this moment portends.  

We see it in our young children. Everybody was a friend no matter what they looked like. They may fight over toys but they wouldn’t hold grudges. Children are generous and their generosity is put first before their selfishness. So naturally kind. We are born kind. Our inner child expressed kindness so freely and easily. For kindness and compassion is what we do and who we are. As human beings we have always helped each other, to lift each other up, to endure the suffering and the challenges. Our DNA and our destinies have been determined by our deep ancestral desire to improve the human condition around us. Children who see homeless people get emotional or give them their food. We start to explain why the world works the way it does. Not everybody can share in the bounty not everybody can be happy. Not everybody can have what we have. That we’re special or better or smarter or luckier. We learned to be un-kind, not mean, disinterested, but not kind. We learned unkindness.
And over time our feelings would get hurt we developed suspicions and biases. We watched others. Fear and our own ego conspired to move us further away from the shores of the ocean. Inland. To higher ground, higher up to be safer. How does that happen? It gets squeezed out of us just like wonder and even joy. Our inner child dies. Growing up and fitting in is brutal.

All of us think we are very kind. Hard to imagine how we could be more kind. Kindness can start in the mind as a thought but like compassion it is an action. What you do, say. How you make people feel. Not your intention but the outcome. But if we’re honest with ourselves, you know it’s not true. I know it’s not true for myself and I am constantly wrestling with the unfulfilled potential of my kindness, my compassion. How I fall short of that potential. How I understand the possibility of kindness. My awareness gives me the chance to learn and grow. And yet we suppress these instincts because we consider the utilitarian nature of kindness– what is the upside to kindness? How can I get advantages from being kind? So we have issues. Kindness is misunderstood as a weakness or a meekness. So we hold back. Our kindness and compassion muscles can atrophy with disuse. The truth is kindness takes courage and strength. It takes our whole heart and our whole selves. Thich Nhat Hanh said “For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.” We must unlearn so much to free ourselves to care, then to be kind and to have compassion. We must unlearn our unkindness.

I remember many supervisors trying to coach me up, to help me to be a tougher and a more effective leader.

“John you are too nice, too kind. Stop taking these decisions personally.” This advice was given to me dozens of times when I was told to lay-off, fire, or terminate an employee.

The whole process of unlearning unkindness, our natural, beautiful infinite source of kindness has been suppressed, compressed, oppressed by everything around us. The systems and processes and the narratives that we are independent crushes our souls. All of these layers of fog move us further and further from the warm currents of our oceans. Further from our connection to one another.

Sure, we’ve been burned everybody has been. Things fail and fall. And our trust and our hearts get broken, but we learn from those experiences, we can learn how to be kind. Learn about suffering, our own and the suffering of others. Thich Nhat Hanh: When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. If we seek to understand the circumstances the context and of the suffering, we will be liberated. 

I’ve been inundated with kindness workshops and kindness apps, compassion workshops and compassion apps. We need them. They’re necessary. They’re important, but they’re like emergency rooms for people with pain. They are a symptom of our culture of unkindness.

What if we each had a kindness score, like a credit score?

Kindness is active. It is not passive and pensive. Kindness is being, not appearing to be. Being kind is what you and do. It is the way live.

  • Lead with kindness. Start with kindness.
  • Give your full time and attention. Perhaps the kindest thing to do.
  • Say yes way more than no, when asked to do a favor.
  • Never keep score, keep track of who paid last or bought you a gift. Kindness is not a game.
  • Listen with empathy and without judgment.

You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty their heart. Thich Nhat Hanh

  • Kindness is understanding and curiosity. Not making assumptions.
  • Kindness is giving without expectation.

Kindness comes with our sense of kinship. We are connected, we are one.

Come down to take a longer walk on the shores of our kindness and admire the depth and the breadth of our capacity.

Studies are conclusive, kinder people are more resilient, healthier, happier, live longer, and have more enduring relationships. ‘The World Happiness Report’, a project undertaken by the United Nations, has shown that even more than economic factors, happiness and life satisfaction are facilitated by factors such as trust and social support, which are themselves manifestations of kindness. 

We must unlearn our unkindness. Kindness is not something we turn on or off. We ARE kind and compassionate people. For it is well known, kindness is highly contagious thing. If we want something more than anything, is a contagion that makes us feel good, that makes us live longer and that everybody, everybody can agree upon. Don’t we?

Thich Nhat Hanh  Oct 11, 1926 to January 22, 2022

Thank you for all of your inspiration, your guidance and for your words. Your poetry and your insights are great gifts. You have left this place but your energy is now part of our collective compassion and kindness. May we use your wisdom and all of our mud to awaken our hearts and flourish together. And from his poignant poem, Please Call Me By My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Black Mirror episode on how every interaction you have is rated and that rating determines your reputation and socio-economic status. As in real life, how people manipulate their sincerity and I assert, their kindness, to look good over being good. 

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