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The Paradoxical Nature of Kindness

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway. – Kent M. Keith

One of the most characteristic elements of any urban landscape is the sheer amount of complete strangers constantly interacting with each other.

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If you take a stroll in any city, within minutes you will be a witness to some sort of verbal altercation between drivers, taxis, or pedestrians. Turn on any news channel and you are guaranteed to see stories of violence, terrorism, and war. In a world that seems to be constantly at odds with itself, the influential power of acting kind seems to slip by undetected.

Reading this, you may think: “wait a minute, I am kind. I just helped my mother in law move into her new house. I adopt shelter animals. I threw my grandkid a birthday party even though they threw a temper tantrum the whole time. I definitely am kind!”

The thing is, it’s incredibly easy to show kindness and support for the people we love.

It’s in our instinctual nature to take care of the ones close to us. The harder thing is to show the same level of care for complete strangers, people who we really don’t have any obligation to. That is the key for changing the emotional and social environment around us—although it can be a hard thing to start practicing.

One of the reasons it’s so difficult to make this transition is because, well, humans are inherently flawed. Even when we follow through with an act of kindness like paying for the car behind us in the drive through, for example, the world around us still won’t owe us anything. The stranger who cut us off on the road will still honk and swear. Someone will still shove past us on a busy street without saying ‘excuse me.’ Our cars will still be broken into.

It’s incredibly easy to become jaded from this, and wonder “why even bother?”

What we need to remember about kindness is that we must give it and expect nothing in return. We will never have control over the actions of others, only our own. Human nature is complicated, and it seems that the level of respect and care is never quite equal between people. Treating people better will not necessarily make people treat you better. In fact, the nicest and most generous people are the ones who get walked on the most.

So why try?

We should all practice kindness, not because it would immediately change the state of the world, but because it would make us happier people.

One of the biggest reasons we should treat people with love is one you probably wouldn’t expect: because the way we treat others, even strangers, is reflective of the way we treat ourselves. When one sees the world negatively, it is not because the world is completely negative, but because they are seeking it. It is undeniable that one individual’s actions have a very, very limited influence on the world as a whole. But for the world of one individual, it is everything.

So, what do you think would happen if you committed yourself to viewing the world as an imperfect but beautiful place?
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