This morning, my cousin asked for my help. And I wasn’t sure how I could respond.

She wants to raise awareness that animals need treating with kindness. Particularly, she’s upset that an image promoting animal cruelty is allowed within Facebook’s Community Standards.

It got me thinking of the word that’s been on my mind a lot in the last year: kind.

Living in our mixed up world of kindness, ignorance and suffering

Someone’s said something cruel to you, trying to make you feel small. Maybe it was at school. Or during a break-up with someone you once loved. Either way it hurt.

Thinking of it, brings up bitter emotions. It’s personal. It’s left a scar.

Who do you trust to always be there for you? Never to say anything out of spite. Someone in you life who you look to as unbelievably good-natured. Someone who you’ve never heard raise their voice, who’s always polite, who always sees the best in you, no matter what.

There love is unassuming and unconditional.

And easy to take for granted.

And then, undoubtedly on a daily basis, you experience a background of emotion triggering events that pass in your periphery: news bulletins, stranger’s faces, charity plea letters and images that you come across whilst browsing the Internet.

Such as the image that upset my cousin on Facebook this morning.

We are constantly prodded with images and experiences from across the spectrum of human action: kindness, insensitivity and cruelty.

We pay the most attention to danger when the risk can be translated to ourselves, and then, when it doesn’t, when we feel helpless, we detach any emotion and act as if we have not seen.

There’s so much suffering in the world that we feel numbed by it. We don’t know how to speak, or act.

The Dalai Lama would say that this suffering is caused by ignorance.

Choosing to discover ‘kind’

The word, ‘kind’ pops into my head on regular occasion.

In January, rather than make a new year’s resolution, I decided to explore this simple four letter word. It pops into my head, maybe once or twice a week, and for a moment or two I ponder what it means.

It’s driven some of my reading choices. I’ve read about Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, I’ve read The Little Prince and then, when I’ve read books on sales, motivation and organisational structure it’s been through this weak lens of ‘how does this relate to kindness’.

Dale Carnegie, in How To Win Friends And Influence People, discusses the teachings of B.F. Skinner:

“The great contemporary psychologist has shown by experiments with animals and with humans that when criticism is minimised and praise emphasised, the good things people do will be reinforced and the poorer things will atrophy for lack of attention.”

Daniel Pink says something similar in Drive.

The best way to inspire kindness is to be kind.

As such, to create a kinder world, one where people show compassion to each other and their surroundings, we need to make sure we’re also talking about what’s good. Show gratitude for the good in the world. Give it the attention it deserves.

Sharing the kind-heartedness of my cousin

Since the catalyst of this blog post was an unkind act to a dog by it’s ignorant owner, I want to share with you a more positive look at animals and the potential for our relationship with them.

This is a TED Talk which I believe captures much of what my cousin believes in.

My cousin is still at school, but I have no doubt her kindness is going to cause ripples in the world and make it a better place.