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What does it mean to be kind? Some behaviors are clearly unkind, like those seen in the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine. But what about more everyday behaviors, like providing constructive criticism, or bailing someone out numerous times? Is there a litmus test for what is “kind? I have been pondering this topic, and here are my thoughts.

In Buddhism, there is loving-kindness meditation. You cultivate loving-kindness throughout your body, mind, and heart. I recommend starting here. Knowing what loving-kindness feels like enables you to use this state of being as your foundation. Anything you do in the name of kindness should align with this felt sense.

A second tenet is that you must first be kind to yourself before you can be genuinely kind to others. There is only one you, and you are the one charged with nurturing your body, mind, and soul. When you can truly accept and love yourself, you fill your reservoirs, and your ability to accept and love others increases, as you have love to share. You stay grounded, not giving more than you have, and create healthy boundaries. You come from a place of strength, able to love others while allowing them to grow and find their path.

Love and kindness are paired as “loving-kindness” for a reason: kindness is love in action. Kindness without love is disingenuous. Seek first to love, and kindness will naturally follow.

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