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Loving Kindness

Loving Kindness

"Treat others as you would treat yourself," the saying goes.

Where this maxim is derived from, I'm not entirely sure. Upon diligent research (aka a quick google search), I found that similar expressions have been used throughout history, by many influential and historical figures; Confucius, Isocrates and Jesus, to name only a few. Most of us can easily agree with this adage. It means, quite simply, to be kind to others- right? Well, I believe there lies a shortcoming with this statement.

We're so familiar with this sense- of how to treat others- that it seems we've skipped entirely over the very basis of where this treating others comes from. Which is to say, how we treat ourselves.

How do we treat ourselves? Do we treat ourselves with respect? With welcoming? With softness and appreciation? Do we tell ourselves that it's okay when things aren't going our way, when we mess up or fall short as we're continuing on about this winding path called life? Or do we have a tendency to look down on ourselves? To berate ourselves? To point out flaws and extract conclusions that don't suit our best interests... Or that are even remotely kind?

Do you see where I'm going with this? While it is true, that we should be kind to others, doing so without creating solid ground for ourselves to stand on first is... kind of like trying to put on someone else's oxygen mask before affixing your own. Your assistance, or your kindness, will only go so far before... well, before you run out. Whether it's of oxygen, to keep up the analogy, or in this case, your kindness. 

Perhaps the saying should be switched around. "Treat yourself as you would treat others." I know for many, including myself, that this would be a valuable reminder.

When our friends are experiencing a difficult time, it seems automatic or second-nature to console them. Take even a stranger, noticeably in distress, most of us want to do what we can to stop the harm. So, why is it when it comes to ourselves that we will at times respond with inflicting even more pain? We will call ourselves names, we will blame ourselves, we will be cold and turn harsh. Imagine treating anyone else you know in this way. It's hard to imagine, right? And yet, we will do this to ourselves, in varying levels and severities on a daily basis.

The way we are connected to ourselves is unparalleled. We are aware of things about ourselves that we cannot be about others. Every thought, every sensation, every memory, every feeling... It is easier to remain biased about a circumstance someone else is going through than to one of your own. Since you are aware of all these factors about your own, but not in others'. There's chatter in our heads and pangs in our chests, and they don't like to be ignored. Sometimes, they're there to help, but the rest of the time, they are just there. Deciphering the difference is a skill. Allowing yourself the space to do so is a loving practice.

It's not until we are in the thick of our own lives while at the mercy of these factors and can still find the capacity to show ourselves compassion, reassurance and love, that we have fully grasped kindness.

And then, we can indeed treat others justly so.