Resources for Recovering Resilience: Take Time to Be Kind

Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of that is the beginning of wisdom.
– Theodore Rubin

The very afternoon I was writing last week’s post on Lost and Found I got distracted and left my debit card in the ATM machine near my office. I realized my mistake by the time I got to Veggie Grill across the way for my favorite kale salad. Ooops. Figuring out what had probably happened, I dashed back to the bank. YES! The next person at the ATM had found my debit card and turned it in. Whew! Would I have done the same thing? Yes, and in fact I have. But that moment of relief at distress averted, that moment of “this is how the world CAN be,” reminded me again of Rubin’s quote above, “Kindness is more important than wisdom….”

Whenever I teach a workshop longer than a few hours, I often begin with an exercise demonstrating the wisdom of kindness and the power of sharing those moments of kindness. You can easily do this with a small group of friends or coworkers, two or three other people is enough. Ten minutes is usually enough.

1. In your circle of three or four people, each person takes a turn, one or two minutes each, sharing a moment of kindness they have received from someone, earlier that day, earlier that week, back in the third grade. A moment when someone held open the door, picked up something you dropped, smiled as you walked down the hallway, sent a supportive email when you were going through a hard time -any behavior that registered in your consciousness as support from the universe, something that gave just a little lift or a little steadiness.

2. Take another minute or two to explore what it’s like for you to be sharing this story in your circle, and what it’s like to hear other people’s stories.

3. Take another moment in silence to notice any effects in your body and mind from doing the exercise, such as a sense of buoyancy, comfort, or relaxation.

What’s happening in your brain when you do a sharing kindness exercise with other friendly, open-minded, open-hearted people: there’s a small fold of tissue in the right visual cortex called the fusiform gyrus that we use to recognize faces and recognize facial expressions of others. When we perceive openness, safety, trust, acceptance in the eye contact and facial expressions of others, the fusiform gyrus signals the fear center in our brain, the amygdala, to calm down; the perception of kindness and receptivity from others resets any alarm signal from our lower brain; we can relax into a sense of safety with others, safety in the world again.

When we take the time to be kind to others, even to be kind to ourselves, and then share those experiences with others, we are resourcing ourselves with the sense of openness and trust that steadies us as we navigate the ups and downs, the mistakes and glitches in our life. Kindness, given or received, then shared, is one of those practices that leads directly to the outcome of resilience.