Delphic Maxim #93
Deal Kindly With Everyone
Yes, I know…I’m posting this on a Tuesday. Its because I was about to fall asleep trying to type last night…I seriously nodded off on the keyboard to find that my nose had replaced what I had written with nonsense. I figured that was my sign to call it a night. Better late and “legible” than on time and nonsensical!
There are a number of the Delphic Maxims that I consider analogous to the Golden Rule (I wrote about another one of them a few weeks ago)..including this one. Since I’m not going through the Maxims in order, I’ve been browsing the list to see whatever speaks to me at the moment, and in light of my post yesterday, I thought that the timing was good to talk about this one. Delphic Maxim #93 asks that we Deal Kindly With Everyone.
How can we do that in our everyday lives?
We need to ask each other and ourselves what actions and traits and values show kindness. Then we need to figure out how to know which kindnesses are needed, when, and by whom (is an unwelcome “kindness” really kind?). We need the capacity to know if we are really responding to an actual need for kindness and not our own projection of need (or lack of it). And, I think that perhaps there is a need for us to learn (relearn?) to accept kindness at face value without projecting a negative intent that might really originate in our own personal biases on to it. Of course, we first need to hash out an operational definition of what it means to be kind.
Before I start pontificating on what it means to be kind, I’d like to point out one thing. The maxim says “deal kindly with everyone”, not “deal kindly with others” or “deal kindly with people like you” or “deal kindly with people you like”. Everyone means yourself, it means people you don’t like, it means people you don’t know, it means people that aren’t like you…and (personally) it isn’t even necessarily exclusive to people in the first place (is it weird that I tilt my head to the side when I click on the italics button?). So…deal kindly with yourself, with your neighbor, with your family, with your friends, with your enemies, with strangers, with the gods, with your pets, with your flora and fauna–well, with EVERYONE!
Since I think we all have the picture now, back to kindness…
For me, the most basic kindness for others that we can do as we go about our lives is to first, do no harm. Now, realistically, I doubt that it is possible to never do harm. Its one of the problems I have with people that take a literal reading of the Wiccan Rede, as even the best of intentions and the actions resulting in the most good can cause harm somewhere. But avoiding harm or minimizing potential harm should perhaps be the most basic, default kindness setting we have. To me, living kindly on an everyday basis means living as sustainable as possible and to strive for a radical acceptance* of others. And really, this is pretty easy to do on a surface level with the people you encounter on a daily basis, but don’t actually *know*–a smile and some polite words is the most basic demonstration of kindness you can show someone.
Secondly, to practice kindness that goes beyond what I consider common courtesy, I think we need to learn to listen with compassion to the needs of others. We need to look within ourselves to acknowledge our own places of privilege that make it difficult to hear what is actually being said (rather than what we are biased to hear). We need to learn to ask questions in a way that seeks and honest and respectful understanding of the challenges of others. And, when we offer criticism** it needs to be without ego, period (if you can’t manage that, just put a lid on it). Finally, we need to work together to balance competing needs (of ourselves and our cohorts with the need of others) and to “share what we can spare” (as my momma used to say) to meet the actual needs (rather than our perception of them from our place of privilege) of those we deal with (don’t forget, this includes ourselves). Most importantly, while doing all this, we need to remember that the actual needs of individuals may not be what we are willing or able to give them–and that needs go beyond the material. We also need to know our limitations and when it might be better to do nothing at all (in an effort to cause no harm, or to minimize the harm we might cause) because our idea of kindness might not be what is needed or necessary.
Okay, lets get some realism in here. I don’t think it is either necessary, nor practical to do all of that all the time for everyone we encounter on a daily basis. I’m no paragon of perfection, and I like my sanity. There are quite simply too many people with too many challenges to care for them all. With that being said, I believe that we should strive to deliver the first “level” of kindness to everyone to the best of our ability, but I don’t think that we automatically “owe” the second, more in depth level of kindness to anyone other than ourselves…with one caveat. When we choose to enter into conversation or congress with others, we ought to do so as kindly as we can manage…and if we can’t do so kindly (which should be measured at least in part by how kind–or not–we are being perceived as), we should probably rethink ourselves and our egos a bit.
And that’s how a simple idea gets all sorts of complexified. Thanks for tuning into another episode of Thalassa Overthinking Things (otherwise known as Maxim Monday)!
*Probably another topic for another day, but to hit the highlights, when I talk about radical acceptance, I mean radical in the myriad of way the dictionary defines it (outside of a chemistry term) rather than the limited way that it is generally used in conversation. To me, radical acceptance means an open minded and open-hearted non-judgmental valuing of the inherent worth of all persons. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them or approve of them, but it does mean that they should be treated with dignity and that they have intrinsic rights which should be respected.
**Ever walk out of a restroom with your skirt hem caught in your pantyhose? If we are honest with ourselves, criticism (when done well on both ends) can be a damn good kindness.
A post-script thought…One thing that I didn’t talk about was being the person being kindly dealt with. I think it goes without saying that someone might be well-meaning and *think* they are doing a kindness, and even in a best case scenario where they are honestly trying to set their inherent prejudices aside, etc…and still ultimately fail. I think we, when the recipient of “kindness” that we *don’t* find “kind” then find ourselves in a position where we need to evaluate how to deal with that person in a manner that is kind. This might mean some gentle criticism where we need to put our own egos aside.
~this has been part of a series of posts on the Delphic Maxims~