Love and Kindness

Most faiths preach some variation on the Golden Rule where the faithful are called to treat others as they, themselves would want to be treated. It’s not an easy thing to do in practice. You have to care about everyone, even people who don’t agree with you, people who hate you, and people who are driving slowly one car ahead of you when you are in a hurry.

It is easy to pretend that all of those people are merely obstacles or adversaries in the movie you star in that plays in your head. You have to try to remember that those people also have a movie running and in that one, you are a supporting actor at best.

I personally break the Golden Rule daily. There’s always someone getting on my nerves somehow, and the space between being blocked or challenged and flying into anger over it is astonishingly short. I am trying to get better though because I think most religions are on to something when they ask us to love one another no matter what. When I give into the temptation to react in anger, I shut myself off from the opportunity to come to a better understanding of another human being, someone who is imperfect but still important, just like me. I reject their humanity at the price of my own.

I wonder if our current political and social climate reflects the price we’re collectively playing for not trying to see life through someone else’s eyes. I’ve been reading a lot lately about how isolated and alienated everyone feels on all of those social platforms that were meant to bring us together. I think it has something to do with how easy it is to see other people as a simple collection of ones and zeroes online. In a world where everyone we meet is a bit player or just bits on a screen, is it surprising that we’re lonely?

So what to do? How do I do a better job of this? One big step was learning to be kinder to me. I learned through my meditation practice that directing kindness inward makes it easier to give it to others.

Consistent meditation practice has also made me more capable of noticing when I’m letting my temper get away from me. If I can catch myself before I snap, I can try to look at the situation from the other side. I know I’ve been the slowpoke in front more than once in my life. Maybe they took the wrong turn and are trying to find the way back as I’ve had to do, too. Now that I can give myself a break for not being perfect all of the time, I can also extend that break to the rest of the people I meet.

If I take the time to listen to someone, maybe we’ll be able to find the things we do agree on. Maybe hate is really just fear, and I can find a way to make them feel safe again. I know it won’t work every time but isn’t it worth trying? The few times that I’ve been able to manage to reach out instead of shutting someone out, I have experienced a deeper connection with another human being, and it really does help me to feel less isolated.

If you’re looking for help facing up to someone who isn’t playing the part you want them to in your movie, I have found that a little silliness goes a long way to remind myself of my all too human condition. It’s hard to be angry at someone while you’re laughing or at least smiling. There’s a little song I think of that always puts a smile on my face and reminds me to try and greet everyone with the love I’d like to receive.

Skid-a-ma-rink a dink a dink, skid-a-ma-rink a doo, I love you

Skid-a-ma-rink a dink a dink, skid-a-ma-rink a doo, I love you

I love you in the morning and in the afternoon

I love you in the evening, underneath the moon

Skid-a-ma-rink a dink a dink, skid-a-ma-rink a doo, I love you

And if you don’t know the tune, here’s my version: