If you were to accomplish nothing more in life than treating everyone (including yourself) with GENUINE KINDNESS, you’d have fulfilled your ultimate purpose on earth — at least as far as god is concerned.
As a teen and a young alcoholic, I poo-pooed kindness as a prissy bow that conformists like June Cleaver pinned on their words. In the atheist home where I grew up, I got the idea that achievement was all that mattered — getting to the top, impressing the right people.
But I was never smart enough. Never fast enough, never funny enough, never liked enough. I felt empty and alone. So I needed to tap-dance harder, always harder. And I needed that warm haven alcohol granted me to shut down the show every night.
“Thank you, it’s good to see you, I’m so sorry for your pain, is there something I can do to help?” — fluffy phrases like those, they were useless. James Dean and Emma Peel sure AF didn’t waste time on shit like that, and I wasn’t going to, either. I was going for badassery, not nice girl.
Flash forward through hitting bottom, getting sober, and staying sober 23 years; toss in a Near Death Experience (NDE) and 15 paranormal after-effects that have happily married to my every thought an awareness of the afterlife and omnipresent spirit world, and you have a grateful woman who views life quite differently.
Kindness is everything. It’s why we’re here.
Writing for the Seattle IANDS newsletter this past year, I’ve interviewed six people who, like me, have died and come back with memories from the other side. All bring back the same message of kindness; so did all the NDE speakers I heard at the IANDS conference this past summer.
These people, who told me their stories over Skype, had died in various ways: in car accidents, from severe illness, drug overdose, hyponatremia and other causes.
After recognizing their own lifeless bodies below them, several encountered spirits who showed them “life reviews” — more or less movies covering their lives from birth to the present, except that now they could feel the experience of everyone their actions touched.
For every person who has reviewed their life with loving spirit guides, the focus has centered on one issue only: did they help or harm? Were they loving or selfish? In most life reviews, NDErs were shown how the kindness or cruelty they passed to others, even in the most casual interactions, rippled out throughout the world to endless effect.
For example, Howard Storm, an atheist prior to his NDE, an ordained pastor since, told me this:
“They showed me episodes starting when I was born. Watching each scene, I could feel not just my feelings but the other people’s…. Events I thought of as the entire goal and purpose of my life got passed right over — first art exhibit, big promotion, zzzip!
“They’d say, ‘Let’s get to something really important!’ and show me interacting with my kid or talking with a student. There I’d be sitting in my office with a student coming to me with a personal problem, and I’d be looking compassionate, but on the inside bored out of my head, you know, checking the ole’ watch under the desk and thinking, ‘I don’t have time to listen to this drivel all day!’ I could feel that my lack of compassion and kindliness for others caused [my guardian angels] great sadness. They never said ‘That’s good, that’s bad,’ but I could feel it – almost as if I were gut-punching them.”
True kindness is the flower of love. Love is what animates our bodies and, in fact, what powers the totality of the universe. Notice that Howard faked caring toward the student who opened his heart to him. The student couldn’t read Howard’s selfishly impatient mind, but god and the guardian angels could! What gut-punched them was Howard’s indifference — his missed opportunity to share the flowers of Love.
Another NDEr, Barbara Ireland, told me this:
“I said, ‘If I choose go with you, what happens to all my half-done screenplays, to all the music I want to put out?’ And the voice answered, ‘Oh, Barbara, those things don’t really matter!’ And I was like, ‘—Really?!’ It said, ‘What matters are relationships. If your work opens someone’s heart or connects you to them, then, yes, it’s valuable. But the main thing is what you leave behind you in everyday life, like the wake of a boat on the water. Do you leave behind happiness, do you lift people up? Or do you judge them, bring them down, compete, compare yourself with them?”
Recovering alcoholics, life reviews should ring a bell with you. Of what could this possibly remind us, this looking back at one’s life to see where we’ve shown up in a spirit of compassion, kindness, and usefulness to others, versus where we acted with selfish indifference? Hmm…
Could it be Steps 4 & 5 — seeing how our self-centeredness, our resentments, our fears kept us from offering love and tolerance? When we read a thorough Step 5 with a wise sponsor, we’re getting the benefit of a Life Review without having to die.
For me, working Steps 4 through 9 brought amazing freedom. Recognizing the fear-driven blinders my ego kept putting on me, then extending human decency to those I had harmed — these actions sprang me out of the guilt and shame of knowing I’d left a trail of garbage behind me. They cleared away burden I’d been drinking to ease time and time again.
Kindness brings self worth. When we grant every person who crosses our path dignity and respect, whether we silently wish them well, offer a smile, or go so far as seeking to be of service, we’re becoming that “channel of thy peace” that opens the Saint Francis prayer. As god flows through us, the light we convey to others heals us as well. AA’s “one alcoholic helping another” is founded on this very freebie.
Sometimes others aren’t ready to receive the goodwill we offer. Oh well. Flowers emanate beautiful scents and colors regardless of whether any bees are around. It’s just what they’re here to do.