(“Kinder” print available here)
“What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.”
— George Saunders’s Advice to Graduates, NY Times
I love good advice. When I meet someone new I always ask them, “What’s the best advice you’ve received?” I have several little notebooks that I usually carry around with me; each book is full of good advice that I’ve gathered from friends, family and authors I love. From my advice gathering experience, I’ve realised that kindness and happiness are closely related. If someone is unkind, the chances that they are unhappy are fairly high. Before I dive into kindness —which let’s face it, we could all use a little more kindness in our life; let’s go a bit further with happiness.
If you are not happy where you are now, you will not be happy elsewhere.
A change of scenery will only lift your spirits for a moment. Happiness is a state of mind, not a state of your emotions. If your home is dirty, walking outside will not change the situation inside. The outside may be nice and you may feel refreshed, but the inside hasn’t changed. Your home is still dirty and needs to be cleaned. Happiness is an affaire of the heart; it is you that needs the changing, not your situation. The first step goes something like Snow White, when she was cleaning the dwarves cottage, at least this is how I imagine it: open up the creaking door and remove the vines of impatiens that has tangled with your situation. It looks like vanity has took the form of dust, you may need to get out the broom. I don’t know what condition your house looks like, I can only share my own experience, and I have found that I need a daily coat of paint on my walls; the paint is humility.
Happiness at its core is a mixture of all attributes good. Happiness is sometimes confused with the distraction of being amused. If your heart is cluttered with human nonsense you are being entertained, which is different from happiness. Let me share some of my own nonsense: “Once I find the perfect cottage, I will be happier”, or “If I had unlimited access to Twinings Earl Grey tea, I would be happier.” “If I received a letter from Hogwarts and no longer were a Muggle… I would be happier.” These are a few of my wishes and the truth is if I received all of these wishes, they would not bring me the happiness I am looking for. I would be entertained for awhile, and soon these entertainments would fade into reality.
Don’t trade in real happiness for quick comforts.
Back to my dirty home analogy, you can only go outside for a little while before you will need to go back inside. And let’s be realistic, realising bad traits about ourselves is not first on our list of things to do. Who sits down on a Saturday afternoon to think about the bad traits they possess and how they can better themselves? Probably very few, and this may be why there is so much unhappiness floating around. Nonetheless, this is the first step and sometimes the longest way round is the shortest way home. <— You can thank the Irish for that.
It is here that I can finally decorate my home, and hanging portraits of kindness is first on my list. Excellent character is always practiced. It never lands in your lap from nowhere and suddenly you have good qualities. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does create habits.
Kindness is the result of a thankful heart.
It may look as though I’m spinning a web: I’ve jumped from kindness, to happiness, to creating habits of good character —which is closely related to being thankful. And now I’ve come back to kindness. I believe this is the intrinsic nature, or rather the anatomy of kindness. Everyday, especially today, we have choices to make and each choice involves an element of kindness.
Do you have any thoughts on kindness or advice to share?