Transactional humanity seems to have buried itself deep into our lives. From our social to our professional avatars – we now barter with our goodwill, compassion and guidance, weighing the cost and benefits of these basic human tendencies.
This behaviour is reflective of a bitter truth both optimists and cynics agree on – the world is cruel, unfair and fickle. Good nature is often seen as a weakness, it is seldom reciprocated, and more than anything taken advantage of.
It is important to be a realist in our tumultuous journeys, yet the cynicism it breeds should never compromise our kindness. Similar to courage, the venerated human trait that endures, elevating our species above its origins, so should kindness.
In Vedic philosophy, there is the concept of the ‘Karmic Ledger’, where one’s destiny is shaped by a balance of compassion and cruelty. The term ‘No good deed goes unpunished’ also finds its roots in multiple schools of philosophy, with an overarching understanding that fate will always test the limits of one’s compassion, by subjecting them to hostility and indifference. According to the Vedas, no matter where we may invest our goodwill, the life force or Brahman will return the same energy to us in different ways, times and forms. As our sense of community shrinks, our sense of individualism and social competition expands, our kindness is tested against our baser instincts. Our capacity to care and emotionally invest in others is repeatedly challenged by our own doubts, insecurities as well as the malice and apathy of others in our circles. No matter what the world throws at us, we always have a powerful capacity for kindness, but we can’t control the returns.
Delivering kindness without receiving it can be a hollowing experience, testing our faith in others and humanity. Love and kindness can drain the human soul, and without nourishment, one is left with doubt, rage and sorrow. But goodwill is never a small act, it creates ripples in the life force with no logical end, which return to us over the course of our lives. It is the one truth humanity has held on to since it achieved consciousness, but the choice is ours to hold on to the hope of that truth. Do we allow our darkest impulses to fester or do we allow it to power the hope in ourselves and others?
Khalil Gibran once said that the intolerant and the unkind are great teachers to be tolerant and kind even though we may be ungrateful for the lesson. Kindness is essential to keep the spark of human communion alive, to breathe life into hope and allow goodwill to endure. Even in the desolation and isolation of malevolence and indifference, kindness can endure, faith can be reborn in tempered hearts . As one of the fathers of humanism, the Roman poet Ovid once said, ‘Be patient and tough, someday this pain will be useful to you’.