Intentional Kindness

I’d like to think that I’m a pretty tough cookie, but in reality, I’m not. Certain types of things—terrorist attacks, school shootings, discrimination, the fact that some people go hungry while others throw food away, cruel treatment of humans or animals—these types of things go right through me; pierce me to the core.

Right through me

I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I do know at least one thing—one positive action step—I can personally take to contribute to the solution. I can be kind on purpose; I can practice intentional kindness.

Some of you may remember that in April of 2012 I had the privilege of having lunch with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. When asked about his religion he said:

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
—The Dalai Lama

What pierces you to the core?


76 thoughts on “Intentional Kindness

  1. I agree I cannot watch or read about acts of deliberate cruelty. Revenge is a little different and understandable and sometimes cruelty is due to ignorance. Many have had to kill in times of war even in hand to hand combat yet we are told that there is the Just -War but even so we are playing God.
    Literature and art are full of killing and perhaps the cruelest death often administered by the Romans was crucifiction.

  2. Sometimes I get pierced so deeply that I want to go numb. But that doesn’t work – the cruelty is still there. I suppose the top of my list is cruelty/abuse to animals and children. Sometimes when we read the news, we feel that we’re powerless against the evil aspects of human nature. But then I hope that you and the Dalai Lama are right: each individual act of kindness makes a difference.

  3. I suppose as a teacher, wasted potential. It takes a but a little faith and a modicum of expertise to plant a seed. I have a friend who plants, but when she does, she sees a thing of beauty before her fingers even touch the soil. She knows what it can be before she places the seed in the ground and so, provides the loving care and attention to bring it to fruition. It is a marvel to watch what a little attention to a growing thing will produce with just a little a little applied kindness and appreciation for what it can become.

    • Dennis – I share the friendship with the same person and am continually amazed at her ability to turn a vision into a reality. She sees it in her mind and then “makes it so” with loving care and attention.

  4. To this day,I wonder how some people live with a heart of stone and sleep sound at night.I feel so good when I am intentionally kind..It is the secret to happiness,really.

  5. I held a newborn baby yesterday. Both the ugliness and hatred in our world and the beauty of new life and the appearance of hope pierce me. I’ll be kinder today because of you, Laurie.

  6. What pierces you to the core is what strikes deeply into my heart – abuse, of animals and humans, the hatred and violence that seems to be so prevalent, greed, and misuse of power. . . and it goes on.

  7. Several years ago, my niece was diagnosed with ALL (Leukemia). I’ve posted here about it. Fortunately, she is now in remission. Watching her go through her treatments (port for chemo; very strong chemo medicines and their assault on her small 7, then 8, then 9 year old body, spinal taps, several rounds of hair loss) and the impact on her family and all of us definitely pierced me deeply. Through my brother Paul, her father, I also received and am still receiving the pictures and stories of so many other children. The first time I read a family’s post on the death of their child to cancer written in such a loving way, I wept like my own child had passed despite only knowing the child through prior posts. Children with brain cancers, children with a litany of other brutal impacts of cancer, I believe it is a rare human being who would not be pierced by the onslaught of stories. Any violence to children (the many shootings we hear about, abuse, cruelty of any form) I join the many here who named the ways, will pierce my heart.
    Yes, all that has been mentioned here will impact me.
    Further, it does hurt to see the poverty in this country continue despite the decades, perhaps centuries of anti-poverty or pro-food sustainability, jobs, etc.. Poverty leads to so many other painful results physical, emotional, and psychological.
    Kindness is certainly one antidote to the pain we all carry from time to time due to cruelty against or around us. I can’t think of a better starting point. Being kind to our own wounded hearts is equally vital. Thanks so much for your prompt here Laurie.

    • Audrey — I have been privileged to hold Sacred Space for your niece. To see, or even read about, children with cancer is soul shuddering.

      THANK YOU for the reminder that being kind to our own wounded hearts it equally vital.

  8. All of the things you mentioned, Laurie. And it’s overwhelming. What can I do to correct injustices–I’m just me. But then I remember a story I heard long ago…

    A little girl walked the beach gently releasing starfish back into the water.
    An adult stopped the girl, “What are you doing? You can’t save them all.”
    “Yes.” The girl nodded. “But I can save the ones I can reach.”

  9. How true Laurie – All senseless acts of deliberate hurt rattle me. Probably the hardest for me is cruelty to children. I remember looking at stories of parents and others who intentionally hurt their children after Patrick died, and just couldn’t understand how they could do that. When I was sitting there & would do anything to have a healthy baby. I strive everyday to be purposefully kind – in hopes that it might make someone else’s day a little brighter.

  10. U’r right, all problems of the world can be resolved thru kindness, compassion, and awareness, the hallmarks of being truly human. Thanks for sharing your weekly inspirations Laurie. 🙂

  11. About 2 months ago I posted that quote on my personal facebook page mainly for those in my extended family and friends who insist on attacking eachother over their political and religious views. This election season has really brought out the worst in some people. The lack of kindness to the opinions of others cuts me to the core!

    Kindness is something that is taught at a young age as well as learned through observed behavior. Whether I agree or not with someone, I try to intentionally be kind and compassionate to their views. If the kindness is not returned, I simply remove myself or the person from the situation. With the lack of kindness in this world, I can only hope this is a trait my children will learn from me. Great post! Tina

  12. The Dalai Freaking Lama! Going to go read that one right now! Last I heard about him Bill Murray was caddying for him in Caddyshack! So your kind of like famous then right? Like not just Idaho famous but like Justin Bieber kind of famous!

  13. Laurie, what a poignant reminder to get back to the basics of kindness while war, violence ,terrorism surround us. I also enjoyed your Dalai Lama post. How privileged you must have felt to have been there. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Hi Laurie

    The idea of “a core” doesn’t work for me, and I get it does for many.

    At different times in my life I have been subject to many sorts of cruelty, injustice, pain and also to many sorts of kindness, unearned benefit, and justice.

    Those experiences have taught me many different aspects of what I am, allowed me to develop many different skills and competencies.

    My kids will tell you that I can cry at Barbie movies, or laugh at war movies. Some aspects of stories hook me in, others I reject as simply beyond the boundaries of the reasonable or physically possible. Most movies or TV programs or books cannot create the sort of reality the authors intend as they do not pay sufficient attention to the realities of physics or games theory, and develop unworkable scenarios as a result. My mind simply rejects them as such.

    So while I do not like horror, I can accept its reality, I understand its physics and its logic, and the need to avoid it.
    I need to be able to look directly at the worst that humanity can do, and choose something else.
    That is much easier to write than to do in practice.

    So I like compassion, fairness, justice, freedom.
    I dislike cheating, lying, obfuscating, injustice.

    Our entire social system, this system of money and markets, seems to be injustice writ large – one giant set of cheating strategies reaching into most aspects of religious and political and economic life.
    We can do so much better.
    Technology gives us the tools to create systems that deliver freedom to everyone, while at the same time working with the natural systems from which we evolved, and upon which we rely for so much at so many different levels.

    And as the old saying goes, “it’s hard to remember you came to drain the swamp when you’re up to your neck in alligators”. Excavators, with climate controlled cabins and satellite internet are useful in situations like that – a lot more useful than shovels.

    So yes – kindness, intentional, and universal.
    And one step at a time.
    One person at a time.


    • Ted — I can definitely wrap my head around, “I need to be able to look directly at the worst that humanity can do, and choose something else.” And “We can do much better.” New to me, I love the alligator saying you shared. 🙂

  15. Dear Laurie please forgive me what I’m am going to admit to . You have asked me a question ‘What pierces me to the core ‘ well I have t be honest ?..over the last few days what has pierced me to the core is .being mean … I have been subject to someone who is so mean I don’t want to be in their company ever again and yet when you mention the horrors that are going on in the world, I feel ashamed that a mean person should cause me so much upset when there is so many terrible things going on in the world that require far more attention than meaness…there I’ve said it . The trouble is I would give the world on stick and I expect everyone else to do the same , unfortunately the don’t . Sorry for getting on my soap box it’s been one of those weekends 🙃🙃🙃

  16. Thank you for this post Laurie. Yes, I feel the same as you on both the negatives and the positives in our world. So, my stance…my mission is all about love and inclusiveness. Peace and blessings to you Laurie. 🙂 Richard

  17. Laurie, it is well known that darkness is the absence of Light. We are all born into the world with a spark of that Original Light illuminating our spirit. As we grow older most of us are taught to show kindness, compassion and pity for those less fortunate than ourselves. In doing so we are adding our small lights to increase the brightness we need to overcome the Darkness that threatens to consume our Planet. Those who study and make war, who destroy cultures, nationalities, regions and families for profit, those who propagate hatred and death to enhance their own situation, they pierce me to the core. Light, in the form of Love, kindness and peace is our defence and protection against the Dark and we should use it lavishly. Good question, thank you.

  18. We could learn a lot from crayons; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box. ~Robert Fulghum……
    .I love this quote and you are right if we all did a small act of intentional kindness when we could or just smile at someone it would make a difference. Have a lovely day 🙂

  19. All thoes things and much more …it breaks my heart deep to the core every time I pick up a paper, so choose not to .
    Meaness …I have been subject to a person this weekend who is so mean I choose not to spend my time with them.
    Generosity of mind and sprit …pure beauty in my eyes .
    Dalai Lama …I am so impressed.

  20. Wow, what a life time experience, meeting the Dali Lama….how wonderful…..I am thinking cruelty is what bothers me the most deep down….yesterday I witnessed a very angry man beating a dog as he drove by….we followed, called the police and let them deal with him…he was one angry man with 5 dogs in a dune buggy…hope he got what was due to him…I try to be kind to all and give everyone the benefit of doubt….let me tell you that living down her with the retiree’s who feel they are more privileged than most has really tested my patience…LOL in the end…deep breaths….kat

    • Kat — Good for you calling the police! I hope they were able to do something that will make that man think twice before hurting another living creature.

      The attitude of “entitlement” is a pet peeve of mine! Deep breaths, indeed 🙂

  21. So much touches my heart, I find myself saying “Be Kind” in my head all day long. I am practicing being kinder to myself also. I am glad the flowers are starting to bloom again, because the campaign these days has been filling up my sad and the violence against so many moments in our lives just overwhelms me…I wonder sometimes, how I was able to do counseling out in the field for so long….I often came home to weep. Be Kind is my go to

  22. Lunch with the Dalai Lama, now there’s a name to drop. I did meet him once but I was with several thousand other people. Even so, it was an enlightening experience.

  23. Laurie, you have done it again: made me think about a topic of huge import. Your question, “what pierces me to the core,” stopped me. This morning I read Nicholas Kristof’s piece about the Boko Haram “wives” who have finally been freed, only to be met with derision and worse as they try to move on with their lives. The inhumanity of our species boggles! AND, I remember those Solomon Asch and Stanley Milgrim experiments following WWII (when the world was trying to prove that there was something unique in the character of a Nazi; surely “we” would never do such a thing) that we are ALL capable of cruelty, given the right set of circumstances. I remember that and try to live each day as that pebble tossed into the water; we really do not know where the ripples will reach or when. I can only jump in. The Mahatma Ghandi quote I used a few weeks ago comes to mind: Be the change you want to see in the world. I hear many of your readers are already doing that. AND, I long ago stopped following TV News. That helps.

    • Janet – You are right, “…we are all capable of cruelty…” Thankfully there’s a flip side; we are all capable of kindness. I’d like to see humanity become “goodness farmers” and intentionally cultivate kind thoughts, kind speech, and kind actions.

  24. Making a difference with some of my students is the most resonating accomplishment of all, and it one that pierces you in mind, heart and soul. There can be no greater gratification in the profession. Another wonderful post here Laurie.

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