The right thing to do

elderly woman smiling with her caregiverI was in Chicago for a couple of days recently. Among many things, one thing that stood out for me was the number of homeless people who were not asking for money. One was just a young girl, who couldn’t have been more than 18. Some of their cardboard signs said things like,

Please. I’m not looking for money. I’m just hungry and cold” and “Can you spare some food, please?

Many of us mistakenly imagine that homeless people will spend money on alcohol or drugs. They just wanted food. But on that point, even if they would spend money on alcohol; how many of us, after a hard or stressful day at work, reach for a glass of wine or a beer as soon as we get home. It offers us comfort and an escape, of sorts. Why should it be different for homeless people, given the stress they live under? I guess I’m saying that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

So, for the rest of the day, each time I saw such a sign, I popped into a shop to buy a sandwich, or something sweet or even warm and offered it to them. They were immensely grateful. In turn, I felt absolutely great inside.

Now, I’m not at all trying to impress you. Any kindnesses I do are tiny in comparison with the acts of kindness done daily by millions of people around the world. What I wish to convey is that I often come across the attitude (mostly in science and with males), that kindness is selfish if it makes you feel good.

Some say, if it feels good then you’re not doing it for them, but for yourself. That I felt so good about buying food for these homeless people got me thinking about this. And here’s the thing.

The reason kindness feels so good is because deep down we know it’s the right thing to do. When we help someone, we align our actions with our core – our core identity. We are genetically wired for kindness. The kindness gene, in fact, is 500 million years old – it’s one of our most ancient genes – which is WHY kindness impacts our biochemistry (see ‘Molecules of Kindness‘ and ‘Born to be Kind‘). It’s our deepest nature.

Helping others makes us happier because were sensing that deep feeling of rightness, that ‘This is who I am!!’ … ‘This is what it’s really all about!!’. Being kind touches that deep part of ourselves that cuts through all the crap and reveals a feeling of joy. Kindness doesn’t just make us feel good, it reveals joy.

Let me say that again. Kindness doesn’t just make us feel good. It reveals joy.

It cuts away the blocks to joy, to happiness, to peace.

So my answer when anyone calls it selfish if it makes you feel good, I’d say that’s merely a misunderstanding of where the good feelings come from!

So be kind during this holiday season. You never know the difference even one seemingly small act of kindness might make for someone.

19 thoughts on “The right thing to do

  1. Denise

    Lovely …

  2. I love reading your Blogs David. The blend of science and philosophical thinking is perfect. Have the best Christmas and let 2018 be your best year yet

  3. What a nice post David. I found it really touching.
    I thinks giving food is really the best thing we can do, maybe together with some kind words.
    “Some say, if it feels good then you’re not doing it for them, but for yourself.”
    What a nonsense! Shall we feel bad and have a grumpy face?
    Only a saint can give without the slightest self-interest.

  4. Thank you David I always enjoy any of your writings as it adds to my understanding of the mind body miraculous relationships. I especially love hearing about your stories of kindness and how it impacts on those we encourage as well as our own well being too.

  5. Lucinda Stapleton

    Lovely article, David, so insightful and true. Thank you for taking the time to write it and connect with me despite being busy on a trip. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and looking forward to meeting you at your talk in London on 16 Jan. Funnily enough I sign off my letters the same way you do!

  6. mu

    I feel nervous about the thought of ‘raining on this parade’ as the thoughts expressed in your blog are ones I am largely in theoretical if not practical agreement with. But there is one little piece that shrieks at me, and that is the insertion of the paragraph about ‘should’. I have come to experience the word ‘should’ and the concepts behind it as a never-never land of subtle admonishment, and recall Marshall Rosenberg’s explanation (and Michael Lerner’s) on the subjects of ‘shoulds’ as well as on ‘rewards’ and ‘praise’ all of which seem to me to be connected.

    Any ‘should’ is likely to create a dilemma: does one conform to someone else’s holier than thou command and superior ‘wisdom’ or does one act from one’s own deep alignment with the message that the author intended.. to bring love to the surface and act not from ‘should’ but from a fresh point of awareness that the article itself carries?

    Is it necessary to add a ‘should’ ? How does this energy affect the hope that is implicit in the preceeding message? Is not a changed point of view best served by arriving at a ‘what do I want to change’ question for oneself, or must (sic) it come from outside of oneself.. the solution or answer to the question being supplied by the person writing, rather than arising from deep within (as it did for the writer).

    Well now I have written in about as ‘shoulding’ a way as I had intended to object to, so may I be forgiven for my failure to find a way to write that is more kind, less assertive of my own point of view, and more open to the myriad of possibilities that your ‘shoulding’ may engender in others who may be less reactive than i to this painful trigger.

    I enjoyed your blog. I tasted it. And I would enjoy it even more if there were not a trace of ‘shoulding’ within it. Namaste….

  7. Nicky

    Thank you David. Such a lovely article and thought provoking. Merry Christmas to you.

  8. Lynne

    Bless you David. So true. Wouldn’t it be great to hear more about the massive amount of kindness happening in the World instead of the bad things? I absolutely love ❤ your work. Thank you so much and Happy New Year xx

  9. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Lynne. Yes, I’d love to hear much more about the kindnesses in the world than the negative things. 🙂

  10. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Nicky. Merry Christmas to you too. 🙂

  11. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Lucinda. Merry Christmas to you too. See you in London. 🙂

  12. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Mary. And I always enjoy your kindly, warm comments. 🙂 I wish you a happy 2018. 🙂

  13. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Thomas. Well said. 🙂

  14. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Kris. Same to you! 🙂

  15. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Denise. 🙂

  16. Irene Girvan

    Happy New Year to you and yours. May 2018 bring you Wealth of the richness of a fulfilled life, strength to carry out your dreams, and the depth of love that’s unfathomable and true. Happiness in abundance, and Prosperity that benefits all. Adventures in discovering the treasures within, Peace without a heavy heart, most of all a blessed year from the very start.

  17. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Happy New Year to you and yours too, Irene. May 2018 bring you all you dream of, and more. 🙂

  18. Mairead

    Your article says what life is all about. We can’t do it on our own.
    We have three simple rules in our house,
    Be kind.
    Have nice manners.
    Work hard and do your best.
    All the best for the new year,

  19. Sabrina

    thank you, as I listen to you for my first time, I am at the same page in my life.. start doing what I should be doing in my life

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