Kindness and Doing No Harm

08/16/2012

.

There is another side to kindness. And that is doing no harm.

.
Kindness is an active, or masculine, energy according to Native American Spirituality (see my earlier post). It is a ‘moving outward’ motion. Doing no harm is more of an inward feminine energy, because it waits. It is non-action. Holding the tongue with silence when angry words want to burst out. Not scowling and scolding a customer service clerk, especially when it has nothing to do with them – such as company practices or how many staff they have available.

The person who answers our call after we’ve been on hold for a while often has nothing to do with the long hold, in most cases anyways. By offering anger to the person who just answered our call, we are doing harm. It is the opposite of offering a kindness. Maybe this seems extreme but I’m not sure that all of us ‘get this’. So many good, kind people think nothing of barking out their frustration at their point-of-sales or service person.

I look at life as a mirror. When I view another person as myself, or as someone I care about like my partner or adult children, then I can slow down and take a breath. I can remember the big picture. This reminds me to choose a higher vantage point, and look at my life and my actions as my Higher Self views them. When I do this, inevitably I make kinder choices. I feel better by being nicer, every step along the way. I have survived the worst of times and I know how much a smile can help someone who is having a rough day.

kindness quoteWhile I have never worked in a movie-rental store, I certainly worked with the public for years. One evening, years ago, as I waited in a long Friday-night line with my cassette cases in hand to enjoy a movie night at home, I admit I began to feel a bit impatient. Until I looked to the front of the line, which was at last only one person ahead of me, and I saw terrible rudeness. Why would a customer choose to ream out a kid at the counter for the fact that they were all out of a certain movie?

By the time I got to the front of the line all I cared about was lifting that young person’s spirits. He suffered abuse from a hard-hearted customer intent on lashing out his frustration on anyone who got in the way of what he wanted. In other words: a bully. A grown man in his 40’s or 50’s. Honestly I looked at him less than the cashier forced to endure his verbal assault. Then the person in front of me went through without saying anything, just quickly paying and leaving. At least he did no harm. I took a more active approach. With a centering breath to help replace the recent angry energy with my own kind energy, I offered a big smile as I approached the counter and met his eyes before saying, “Hi! How are you? What a crazy Friday night, eh? Bet YOU’d rather be home watching a movie yourself right now!”

Well that young man broke into the biggest grin you can imagine! Here he was, around late teens or early twenties, polite and hard-working, and built like a football player. But he’d sure endured some unnecessary roughness from a rude customer! As I handed over the empty cases I let him know that if they had any of these movies in, that would be great – but if not, I’d find something to watch. I saw his gratitude and how his spirits lifted. He went through the cart of movies behind him, then spent about a minute going further ‘afield’ to find two of the three movies I was hoping to rent for the weekend. I was delighted. With warm smiles and praises of gratitude for his hard-working service, I went happily on my way, feeling better for knowing I helped cheer someone’s day. I later learned that young man entered into the profile with my phone number (used for renting movies) the words “Nicest customer EVER!”. Not surprisingly, no matter who was working at the video store, my smiles at the counter were always met with big smiles back. It was about a year before I was told what my profile displayed, but I knew right away who had typed it in. 

Last weekend my husband and I went for lunch at a nice restaurant. The waitress was new to us, and very bubbly. I always like learning the name of our wait-staff and using it throughout the visit. I asked for her suggestion about a lunch item, and hubby and I placed our orders. As it turned out, I wasn’t thrilled with this new item. When she checked on us I said with a smile that next time perhaps I’ll stick with my usual favorites. She apologized and offered to replace it, but I reassured her with a smile that it was fine (because it really was, just not fantastic). I said with a joyful laugh that such a great restaurant is allowed to have one thing on the menu that doesn’t make me ecstatic. I added that her friendliness and speed were appreciated, and their salad bar was always stellar. As we finished our lunches, and declined dessert or coffee and would just pay and continue our Saturday adventures, she returned with our bill and a lovely complimentary dessert with two forks. She commented that she knew we said we were too full for dessert, and that we didn’t have to eat it of course, but she just wanted to express her gratitude for us being such nice customers. She said with a whisper that not everyone today was being so nice to her, and she wanted to thank us.

Wow! Now of course offering kindness is not about ‘getting’ something in return. As Wayne Dyer teaches, we are not to ask God “What will I get?” but rather “What can I give?”. However one thing I find fascinating is how often we will see proof of the old adage: What goes around, comes around. I do all that I can to help brighten a person’s work day. And sometimes I get to be known as the “nicest customer ever”. 

35 responses to Kindness and Doing No Harm

  1. 

    It is amazing how kindness does have a spreading and returning effect though. Some girlfriends and I went out a couple weeks ago and were having a really lovely time chatting away, included the waitress, the manager even popped by and chatted with us for a while (notably all women, since it is sometimes rare to find women in groups beng kind to solo women) We laughed it up and treated them both as one of ‘the girls’ When it was time to get the bill we were pleased to discover, the dessserts were free along with the one bottle of wine. Crazy! We had just been having an enjoyable time with a bunch of gal pals and included these lovely women. Kindness always pays off internally, but in this case it did in our wallets too. Thanks for always being a ray of sunshine Gina. xo An honour to ‘know’ you. 🙂

    • 

      Thank you so much for this wonderful comment, dear heart! I love when things like this happen. The genuine kindness that you are your group offered to the manager and her waitress obviously made their day, and they wanted to offer something in return. I love it! And I love having you in my life as well. Hugs and hopes of sharing rhubarb-strawberry pie with you someday 😉 xo

  2. 

    Thankyou for the two defintions, its helped prepare our morning,our day. Thank you.

  3. 

    What a shining example of the words that you speak. I smile and feel hope and faith every time I read this blog. It shines. Know the impact of these word, the Truth is here. It can be felt by the Heart, the Soul and the deepening smile as I read each piece! all my love to you, Linda

    • 

      Dear Linda, your kindness shared touches my heart and brightens my eyes. Your words are what I hope for, that I can share the love within me out into the world and ~hopefully~ touch another. Thank you for sharing that I succeed in offering you hope and faith with your visits here. Every visit to your blog brightens my world as well. With so much love and gratitude, Gina

  4. 

    “I look at life as a mirror. When I view another person as myself, or as someone I care about like my partner or adult children, then I can slow down and take a breath.”

    I’m so grateful you mentioned this particular principle. It’s one that I try and follow, not all that well, may I say, but I try. There is a beautiful connection between compassion and imagination and when you use your imagination in this kind of way (this particular principle) compassion and kindness seem to flow naturally without it being a kind of grunt and grown thing to express. It’s interesting to explore the connection between imagination, and compassion and kindness. Thanks for a meaningful post, Gina.

    • 

      This is a wonderful principle you have pulled out Don. And as you put it so well, I too try and follow, and am not perfect. But using my imagination to ‘walk in their shoes’ or imagine one of my sons working in an under-staffed store for example, the feelings of kindness can easily flow to the surface. I really appreciate how you shine more light on the correlation between imagination and compassion. With deep gratitude for you and your thoughtful comments, Gina

  5. 

    What comes around, goes around. Kindness Karma. 🙂

  6. 
    joyfullyrenewed 08/17/2012 at 6:35 am

    I absolutely love this post! And I think your idea of treating each customer service person (or any person at that) as if they were someone close to you is wonderful! oddly,I don’t often encounter bad service. A while back I noticed that one of my FB friends was constantly posting about rude sales people, bad service, etc. but as dr. Wayne Dyer also says, what you focus on is what you attract! I choose to start each interaction with a smile and eye contact…maybe that helps?

    • 

      I love how you rarely have bad service (me too) and beginning with a smile is a great way to begin. And how your FB friend seems to always run into difficult salespeople, and how Dr Dyer warns that what we send out comes back to us. That is so observant of you! One of my favorite (and funny!) things he said in one of his talks is, “Have you ever noticed how people who complain all the time always have a lot of new material?” He made it funnier by acting like one of those people for a moment, moaning about all the things wrong in their life. Yes, I do believe life is like a mirror, only reflecting back what we are putting out there. Thanks for your delightful comment!

      • 

        Thank you for this wonderful post. I absolutely love listening to, reading, and watching Dr. Dyer’s talks. It doesn’t surprise me that you do too 🙂

        • 

          Yes every year I renew my PBS membership to coincide with his latest performance so I can be treated back with one of his thank-you’s. Books, audio CD’s, and DVDs. Have you enjoyed his DVD “The Shift” yet? It is quite wonderful. Worthy of frequent replays. Big hugs to a kindred spirit, or should I say kindred ‘student’? 😀

  7. 

    Gina, this post speaks to me in so many ways…First of all, Do No Harm is the primary statement in the Hippocratic Oath that all physicians take when they complete their training. While I’m not a physician (I’m a Physical Therapist, as you know) I take this statement as a sacred vow in my own work. But I think that what you’re saying here makes that oath appropriate in all walks of life. And in your sharing examples of daily life, I’m reminded of a song I heard David Wilcox sing at a concert last Winter. Many of his songs are really fabulous stories in disguise and the message of this particular one was spot-on…It was the story of a woman who went out on a first date with a guy – things were going very well until – As David says in the song – “If he’s rude to the waiter, RUN!”

    Thanks for your beautiful posts. Sometimes I wait to reply until I have the time to savor what you’ve said and then respond.

    Love,

    Cathy

    • 

      Cathy, I know exactly what you mean about sometimes savoring a post until returning to reply ~ you may have noticed I do that with yours at times. I love what you’ve written here, and the importance of the concept of Do No Harm. Yes the Hippocratic Oath primarily, and it also reminds me of Buddhism. It comes to mind with every insect I catch in the house with a glass and carefully release outside. But back to kindness with each other. You put it so well in saying this oath is ‘appropriate in all walks of life’. Also, I’ve adored David Wilcox for years and that song offers such wisdom. Thank you for sharing that line because it is SO true: if a person can be rude to anyone, they can be rude to you! Thank you so much, always, for your kind and thoughtful comments.
      Love,
      Gina

      • 

        Oh my! You do that too? (The insect thing!) I’m a big fan of spiders and I do my best to rescue them and escort them outside before the cats get to them – with a glass and a piece of cardboard. Peter has even taken to doing it! And David Wilcox – I LOVE him!

        Love,

        Cathy

        • 

          Cathy – we truly are sisters separated at birth! LOL. When you wrote earlier of Mr. Wilcox I was amazed (it reminded me of the coincidence with my brother!). I actually met him many times in the mid-80’s because I was close friends with his stage manager. And I too have a special thing for spiders, although I have always tended to root for ‘underdogs’ and wish more people knew how smart and interesting they are! Just today I was hand-watering my tomatoes and I noticed a pretty zebra jumping spider watching me as it scooted along the garage wall and I said ‘Hello’. They have to be my favorite, and a recent documentary I saw stated how are ‘aware’ when they are being watched and will watch you back (but I knew that already from their behaviour with my glass approaching them). I know some spiders are not harmless, but it is my hope that I build good karma by catching and releasing their cousins, and that the Brown Recluses and Widows will stay away. So far so good 🙂
          Much love to you dear Cathy,
          Gina

  8. 

    I will no longer aspire to the designation of “Nicest Customer Ever,” since that has been rightfully taken, but I will still aspire to do kindness and to do no harm. Interestingly, there are three simple rules in Methodism, the branch of the Christian faith in which I am involved, which state: 1) Do good, 2) Do no harm, and 3) Stay in love with God. I do find myself recalling these simple rules often, especially when I need them most. I also reflect on the words of the prophet Micah: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” A wonderful post, Gina, as always. Peace, Mark

    • 

      Thank you Rev. Mark, for your wonderful comment here! It is always wonderful to enjoy your visits. Thank you for the chuckle, about the ‘designation’. These three simple rules certainly could help us all in moving towards world peace. I have been deeply contemplating and writing about the first two steps lately but the third step is the most profound of all. While I do walk with God, and I see the Divine in all of nature, your comment here reminds me to do even more and remember to ‘be in love with’ God. Your wise comment, and wonderful quote from the prophet Micah, is very timely for me. With deep gratitude, Gina

  9. 

    This blog summarizes how I see you – purely wonderful!

  10. 

    Thank you for sharing these great stories, my friend!
    Russ

  11. 

    Gina, love the WHOLE article, but wanted to comment on this in particular — the “masculine” energy of “kindness.” Did you know that when we are KIND, when we FEEL compassionate, we activate the part of our brain that is about ACTION?!!! Just cultivating a sense of kindness within us ACTIVATES us and animates us into ACTION! Its how our brains are wired!!!! I love it!!!! lisa

    • 

      Exactly! Kindness is all about Action! In thinking about this I was excited to also share about ‘doing no harm’ – the more feminine non-action side of NOT retorting or speaking with harshness or criticisms. Thank you so much for your delightful comment my friend! It is always wonderful to hear from you Lisa 🙂 Hugs, Gina

  12. 

    What a lovely post with two lovely stories, Gina! Wow! I needed to read this, as I am not feeling quite cheerful today… I love to know about people who are trying to spread kindness. I always try to be nice to every person who provides a service to me and my family. My dad tends to be a little explosive with restaurant staff, or police officers, or taxi drivers but I always try to make him see how most of the times those people are only doing their jobs and are not directly responsible for his complaints.
    You are a very inspiring person to read Gina. Thank youu!

    • 

      Wow, what a lovely comment. Thank YOU Erika, for sharing your kindness with me 🙂 Your sweet words here have brightened my day, as I am sure you do throughout your day, more than you know. Hugs of gratitude, Gina

  13. 

    Reblogged this on fibrohappiness and commented:
    In today’s oft too busy world, it is easy for even the most gentle souls among us to forget to pause long enough to pass on some human kindness. We never know how much good one smile, one kind word, one acknowledgement that says to another, “I see you” is going to do (for them or us); but human kindness always does some good, somewhere. I love this post by Gina at Professions For Peace. Another great read!

  14. 
    jolynproject 08/24/2012 at 9:10 am

    I really appreciate this post. It means a great deal. I have been on the receiving of a verbal beat down from unhappy customers when I worked in retail and I have been on the giving end of giving kindness to hard working employees because I understood how it is in their position. I also remember some customers being the nicest, like yourself and that always helped me out during the tough days. Kindness and empathy goes a long way and if we truly just remembered the importance of these individuals who work tirelessly to provide a luxury, we would all be able to be a little nicer and a little bit more patient with our fellow (wo)men. Thank you for sharing your stories. They are truly inspiring.

    • 

      Jolyn, your kindness comes through in this delightful comment, and warms my heart. Having been on the receiving end makes me extra protective, and kind, to people who work with the public as well. It’s a real eye-opener isn’t it? And for all those in careers that do not directly work with the general public, I hope to reach them to help expand their empathy and patience. Thank you so much, dear heart, for this insightful and wise comment. Your visits always brighten my day!