Enjoying being cruel has long been a regular part of the human condition. Cruelty cannot be something innate in us, however, because our minds are part of the same consciousness as God! But rather, one theory holds that perhaps it is a byproduct of our enforcement of morality rules.
And sadly, the advent of the Internet has brought this native human cruelty to hideous new levels. It affects both children and adults, to the point where the government has become involved, and our civic and political life is a battlefield. Many modern politicians even would rather make vicious personal attacks on one another than to engage in substantive debates. What is especially amazing is the glee with which some of these battlers will put down and try to destroy other people who just have different opinions. Thanks largely to heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the racial issues that once were tearing this nation apart are becoming a thing of the past; but even that improvement is a problem for some, who are so eager to continue fighting over race that today more than two-thirds of reported racial hate crimes turn out to be hoaxes.
Helping our society to begin to learn mutual kindness is a deeply urgent matter now. Jesus talks about neither cruelty nor kindness in the Gospels, beyond saying variations of “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (LK 6:31). But the opposite of cruelty is kindness. And if each of us will work to train ourselves to manifest kindness in every situation, might our doing that act in our lives the way an active gratitude practice does, and soften our minds, making it easier for us to better learn not just kindness, but also forgiveness and love? Always choosing kindness is easy. And it quickly becomes a habit that works beautifully with our efforts to learn forgiveness and love! In every situation, we must:
- Learn to see everyone as a perfect aspect of God. It’s a simple matter of reinforcing what we already know is true, until we cannot look at any human being without seeing an aspect of the divine. Panhandlers, members of criminal gangs, even people who treat us horribly: as Mother Teresa said, “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”
- Learn to treat yourself with kindness. We can become so caught up in trying to do more for other people that we neglect to nurture our own happiness! Build into each day a few small things that you personally enjoy. As the beloved Buddhist nun Pema Chodron said, “Compassion for others begins with kindness for ourselves.”
- Squelch every impulse toward cruelty. These impulses come up all day long. Never gloat at another’s comeuppance. Never say or do anything that will make someone else sad, and be especially careful about this when it is your view that a little bad treatment might have been deserved. Mark Twain said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. Please God, in all things may I be that fragrance.
- Look for every instance where you can be proactively kind. It soon will seem to you that it is not enough just to avoid being cruel. And coming up with extra ways to make strangers happy is a wonderful way to rev your kindness engine! Look for daily chances to say something sincerely kind to every stranger that you encounter. The more you do that, the happier your whole life will be.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (JN 13:34).