I have this Word document called “Things I read and liked,” and when I read something that speaks to me, I log it there for safekeeping. There are quotes about many things, but recently I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of kindness and forgiveness and compassion. We are all trying to figure out how to “do” life, and we are all human—and being human isn’t easy. I wanted to share some of the quotes I’ve saved on this subject below:
Someone I don’t know, a long time ago – the origin is argued over – said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Pablo Neruda said, “Let us forget with generosity those who cannot love us.”
Joanna Goddard, blogger at Cup of Jo, once wrote that her mother often tells her, “Take gentle care of yourself.”
I have a friend who told me that you have to make your own sunshine, something she demonstrates every time I see her. “You’re capable,” she told me, and I think of that often.
To me, all the wisdom in these quotes comes down to being kind—to yourself and to others, and having some understanding and compassion for people. It is hard to be human, and even with the best intentions, you don’t always get it right. And occasionally even the most reasonable, the kindest people can act out of anger or selfishness or hurt. We can try to get closer to perfection, but to be human, I think, is to be imperfect—which makes kindness and compassion and forgiveness very useful skills.
As with most everything in my life, I have researched this—whatever “this” is: becoming the best version of yourself, happiness, enlightenment, self-actualization, whatever. I have done a lot of fieldwork on it too (i.e. living my life). Surfing, for instance, has humbled me; it has given me a greater ability to laugh at myself, to live in the moment, and to realize that you cannot fight the waves – literally or figuratively. I am a very small part of an enormous world and no matter how big my problems seem the ocean is still much larger and more powerful and could easily swallow me up, and some currents (literal or figurative) are very strong and you just have to figure out a way to ride them out without going under. But it seems to me that kindness can make it easier to ride those (literal or figurative) waves—when someone accidentally gets in someone else’s way, when someone unintentionally offends.
So yes, being forgiving, being kind to others, is a very wise and good thing to do, I think. But it’s also necessary to extend that kindness to yourself. (When I have to balance the two, however, is where I have trouble–but that is a struggle for another post.) And I like and believe in the idea that happiness comes from within. You cannot control what other people do; you can only control yourself, and decide how to react.
I am sure I have said this before on this blog, but every day I am living reinforces the fact that the only person I am with, and will be with, for the rest of my life, every waking moment, is Ann Kaiser. So it is not only necessary, but smart, to get to know her, and to try to like her. There are things in my life that I wish I’d have done differently, things I wish I had said or hadn’t said, but the only things I truly regret are the things I did knowing they were unkind or thoughtless.
In realizing this, I know now, for the most part, what I am about. And, as I have gotten to know myself, I have tried to make the woman I am match up to the woman I want to be. They’ve both changed over time, but they seem to be on a good trajectory, coming closer and closer together over the last 29.5 years. But they are not the same, and probably never will be, and some days I feel OK with that.
As I write this, though, I wonder if I have gotten a little too philosophical and if in aiming to be so “kind” and “forgiving” I am just avoiding having to actually deal with things. Maybe I’d get really bored if I was totally enlightened and had nothing to worry about. But then again, can so many philosophers, and poets, and mothers be wrong about this?