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A Spiritual Threesome: Kindness, Distress & Compassion

Kindness, distress, and compassion are intimately inter-connected within the dance of human experience. Let’s start with a few simple definitions, shall we?

Kindness: a way of life that nurtures peace and well-being of all, including one’s self.

Distress: a state of experience that arises when kindness is absent or not actively strengthened.

Compassion: kindness applied directly to discomfort.

Kindness and distress are inversely proportionate to each other – in other words, as kindness grows, distress fades. If there is less kindness, distress will grow in the space left by its absence.

The truth is that distress is a part of life. There will always be incidents, accidents – moments of convergence between people and events, that can temporarily burst through even the strongest, most resilient, field of kindness.

Sometimes distress arises within the self and sometimes it is brought to us by another – or by many others experiencing a distressing event of larger proportions. Humankind has a long, long way to go in our evolution before we are all so overflowing with kindness that even the most startling and painful incidents don’t register as

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distressing in any way.

So think about it this way, kindness is our authentic life. It is our destiny, what we are all here to grow into and learn. It is Love in action. As we bolster, strengthen, and become more skilled at practicing this way of life, we will build a reserve of calm, centeredness, and quiet. We will build a reserve of peace and well-being.

Ideally, we live with a robust and creative field of kindness surrounding and infusing all that we are and everything we do. We practice choosing Love in every moment, and through this practice, build lives of kindness.

This fosters genuine happiness and well-being in all, from the inside (meaning, your core self) out.

But let’s be practical: we ain’t perfect! The practice of kindness is a lifetime’s worth of work. We all have patterns of distress stored in our subconscious memories. We all have days when life feels harsh and our capacity for choosing Love seems to lessen by the minute.

We will experience distress. We will be asked (sometimes forced) to interact with the distress of others. Sometimes we will be the ones pushing our distress out into the world. This is going to happen.

When distress is rising within our experience, we are called upon to offer a specific expression of kindness: compassion.

Compassion cannot exist without distress. Just as courage cannot exist without fear, without distress there is no need for compassion.

When we break down the origins of the word, compassion can be defined as “co-suffering” – to suffer along with another. It requires that we fully acknowledge and stand witness to the present distress and then ask, “What is needed to restore harmony and once again nurture happiness and well-being?” … what is the Loving thing to do?

Kindness is a relatively easy habit to develop once we set our minds to it – it is our authentic life after all. Kindness’ kyptonite is distress. Distress’ antidote is compassion. Compassion requires the strength and vulnerability to recognize distress. Distress must be seen, met, and addressed with a kikindness:distress graphicndness that can hold space for it – this is compassion.

Compassion is the ability to say, “I see the suffering. I hear the distress. What is needed here to bring me/you/us back to a place of peace and well-being?”

Our experience of genuine peace and well-being is completely dependent upon this dynamic of kindness, distress, and compassion.

The good news is that it is also, 100% within our control. In fact, the ratio of kindness to distress in our life experience is the only thing we have any real control over. It’s the only control we could ever need, because it determines every other aspect of our experience.

Learning to work this ratio in a Loving, constructive way – instead of allowing it to run on default throughout our lives, takes time, skill, and a lot of support. It takes countless small acts of devotion.

Now that we have introduced the basics, we can talk about the specific skills and support that truly learning to be compassionate and kind requires. …. In another post!

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One Comment

  1. You know, it’s amazing how hard it can be to come up with the right thing to say over a splmie comment. Ah well. Thank you for your insightful and kind words, and much happiness to you, as well. (That’s from both of us.)

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