• Something to Think About: No other weapon than kindness

a man and woman sitting back to back after argument, hurting each otherDr. Amit Sood says, "Do everything you can to protect yourself from the hurtful action without letting go of compassion for the ignorance that prompted the hurtful action."

Dear friend,

I was sitting on a low stool looking to the right. Suddenly someone pushed me from the left, hurtling me to the ground. I fell on the floor, doubling up with pain. That someone was my playful nine-year-old. As I recovered, I noticed my daughter was crying. She was emotionally hurt because she had caused me pain. That’s our natural instinct. When we hurt someone, physically or emotionally, intentionally or unintentionally, we hurt ourselves.

Research shows that your brain senses other people’s pain as its own. Specifically, your brain’s pain-processing areas (particularly the insula) activate when you perceive other brains’ pain areas activating. This is particularly true for people you care about and love.

I should recognize the wisdom in this science. The person who hurt me actually hurt him- or herself. There may be a time lag in this realization, but it will eventually catch up with the person. My default should not be to seek revenge, for revenge won’t undo my previous hurt, nor will it teach me or that person anything new. Revenge will only seed future reasons for hurling hurts. I should instead be compassionate to that person.

I should focus on his or her benign intentions, if they were indeed benign. For intentional hurts, I should recognize their origin in ignorance and, while doing everything I can to protect myself, be compassionate for that ignorance.

With my kindness for others, I will more easily find kindness for myself. I will uncover gratitude and meaning and thus come to acceptance and forgiveness. All these will help inspire the perpetrator to be kind.

There are situations where I have to put up a fight. In most circumstances, I have found the best weapon is kindness.

May you need no other weapon than kindness to negotiate (and win) your daily battles.

Take care.

Read previous blog posts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.

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