Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
To gather us up.
We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty
If we say we can, we’re lying.
If we say No, we don’t see it,
That No will behead us
And shut tight our window onto spirit.
So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.
We Shall Be a Mighty Kindness
Occasionally in life, I will encounter someone whose entire being seems to radiate a sort of profound kindness that envelopes me and makes me feel wholly seen, deeply held, and completely loved. When I am around them, I feel clever. Interesting. Attractive. Maybe even a little bit shy. I feel that in their eyes I can do no wrong and that everything good in the world is possible.
Perhaps you’ve met someone like that. Perhaps you are like that. I believe that person—who exudes love like a rare, intoxicating and exotic perfume—is what Rumi might deem a Mighty Kindness.
True Confession: I want to be like that. I want to be a Mighty Kindness. I want to see the world as full of possibility and hope and be a beacon of love that guides people home. Back to themselves. Back to the love that is borne in the very marrow of their being. Back to truth.
In fact, ever since I first heard those words nearly six years ago now, I have proclaimed to anyone who will listen—and even those who won’t—“I want to be a Mighty Kindness in the world.”
Honestly, I’m not even sure what that means or what it would take to be a Mighty Kindness— although, Rumi does seem to lay it out for us, almost like a recipe:
Be Helpless: Check.
Dumbfounded: You know it!
Unable to say yes or no: Are you kidding? It’s a wonder I’m even wearing pants right now!
And honestly, I’m not even sure why I want to be a Mighty Kindness in the world. Other than the fact that I think it is desperately needed. That kindness is the essential ingredient for turning the tide of casual indifference, senseless barbarism, and overwhelming suffering that is making this planet a lonely and inhospitable place to be.
Oh right. That.
So, what does it take to be a mighty kindness in the world? How can a world that seems so sure of everything—a world where judgment is so immediate and accountability is so absent, a world where politicians argue over constitutional rights while children die in the streets and veterans rot in jails—how can this world surrender to the truth and beauty of not knowing anything at all in order to become a mighty kindness that heals us all?
Because that is the truth: when we show up confident in our opinion, controlling in our actions, closed off from compromise, unwilling, unbending, unseeing, we cut ourselves off from possibility and growth. We cut ourselves off from spirit, God, source, love… We cut ourselves off from kindness itself. We cannot see the suffering of the world, because we cannot connect to the source of love within us that helps us see the truth of others. We lose access to, as author Jean Fain calls them, “our compassion glasses.” We become suffering itself and kindness can find no purchase when we are in this state—this state that acts as a teflon shield to our humanity.
I believe the opposite of kindness isn’t cruelty. I believe it is indifference. Cruelty indicates an active barbarism that certainly exists in the world and for which kindness would certainly be curative. However, I do not believe that cruelty is our true affliction as a people. It is indifference that ails us as a nation. As a world. The more seemingly connected we become through bits and bytes and wires, the more we seem to cultivate a blind indifference to the suffering in our world—the suffering within ourselves. Perhaps it is because of an overwhelming sense of the enormity of the task at hand. Perhaps it is a perceptual blindness, where we end up sleepwalking through life, collar upturned, eyes cast down, not seeing the man begging for his life on the street corner. Perhaps we have become too dull-eyed, separated from life and from love by a thin pane of glass.
But it is hard to be indifferent when you are eye to eye with a hungry soul, starving for food and affection. It is hard to be indifferent when you are sitting in a prison, bearing witness to the result of years of intergenerational racism, poverty, and abuse. It is hard to be indifferent when you see a freezing and frightened dog on the side of the street. It is getting harder and harder to ignore the accumulated effect of our indifference when it winds up as more than a meme or a trending topic on Facebook and instead ends up on our doorstep. And so we are slowly waking up to the harsh consequences of indifference. We are waking up to the quiet pinging of our compassion that is growing into a thrumming wave of yearning to fix what is broken all around us and within us.
But compassion is not enough and it is nothing without kindness. Compassion is a recognition of suffering in the world, whereas kindness is the transcendence of our own self-interest in favor of easing the suffering of others. Kindness is compassion in action. It is the expression of compassion in the world, not only for ourselves, but for others.
I believe that kindness is the lodestone of our moral compass, and without it? We risk becoming directionless in our values and in our character.
I believe that kindness is the keystone of our principles as a nation and without it, we cannot bear up our brothers and sisters who so desperately need our help.
I believe that kindness is a state of grace and without it, we will shut our window tight onto spirit.
Kindness is our healing.
It is our salvation.
It is our restitution.
The good news is that kindness is free. It has no capital. It is not quantifiable. It cannot be bartered or sold. And yet it is also the most valuable commodity on earth. And it’s abundant, if, and only if, we overcome indifference.
So I ask again what does it take to become a mighty kindness? What do we do? How do we come together and create real and lasting change when the task seems so enormous?
We start by recognizing that kindness is not a random act, but rather a deliberate act of revolution—a resolution to overthrow the callous cruelty and sleepy indifference in the world; to cast aside our hubris, lay down our certainty, and reserve our judgements; to fall back in love with the tenderness of the world, the tenderness inside each of us.
We must put down our screens, roll down our windows, and open our eyes to what we have created in our sleep. We must allow ourselves the discomfort of witnessing the discomfort in others to the point that we are moved to act, in whatever way—no matter how small. We must let ourselves fall in love with the magic of creation to the point where we are once again mute and overwhelmed by its beauty.
We must live the question, “How can I bring more kindness into the world?” and let spirit—not our mind—lead us to the answer. It is our minds that make us believe the ugliness of our separation from one another, but spirit that reminds us that we are in fact connected to all. When we have surrendered to the beauty of that connection, we shall be a Mighty Kindness.
And it will be grand.
This reflection was originally written and delivered by Jessica Steward at the Portland New Church, 302 Stevens Avenue, Portland, Maine on Sunday, February 21st. The service, “Spark of Kindness: The Simple Beauty of a Benevolent Heart,” was designed by Jessica Steward and Craig Werth, both students at the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine.