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Kindness - Science Agrees with Religion
February is Random Acts of Kindness month, but every month of the year should be, according to the Bahá'í Faith: "Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will and friendliness, that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Bahá, that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancor may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst the peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the Light of Unity." -- The Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 14
If those words seem familiar, they are. Kindness to others is part of every religious and philosophical treatise on living a holy and happy life. And, it would appear, they are similarly unpopular in every generation! According to Matthew, the Jews wandered away from Christ's Sermon on the Mount shaking their heads and wondering how such outrageous ideas could have been so spellbinding when He spoke them. Peoples listening to Buddha's instructions were likewise bemused and disbelieving. Moses was considered a stammering nutcase, crazed by his flight into the desert after killing a Roman soldier who was abusing His countryman. Muhammad was ridiculed as an illiterate camel driver, never mind that He had built a successful business and produced a literary classic that eventually changed a motley collection of warring desert tribes into the first nation on the planet.
Followers of the world's religions have struggled to succeed at these instructions from time immemorial, but they have new support from a secular source: science has been studying the mental and physical effects of some important virtues, with interesting results:
"The positive effect of kindness on the immune system and on the increased production of serotonin in the brain has been proven in research studies. Serotonin is a naturally occurring substance in the body that makes us feel more comfortable, peaceful, and even blissful. In fact, the role of most antidepressants is to stimulate the production of serotonin chemically, helping to ease depression. Research has shown that a simple act of kindness directed toward another improves the functioning of the immune system and stimulates the production of serotonin in both the recipient of the kindness and the person extending the kindness. Even more amazing is that persons observing the act of kindness have similar beneficial results. Kindness extended, received, or observed beneficially impacts the physical health and feelings of everyone involved!" Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, The Power of Intention, p. 25
For those of us who believe in an all-powerful and loving deity, by whatever name, the benefits of practicing virtues are a given. Faith in those benefits, even if we don't see them immediately, is also a given. That faith is what makes life worth living, and it also allows us to see virtue and worth in others.
Bahá'ís see the world as changing for the better, even as the architect and contractor can see the future edifice in the mess and demolition of building it. Eyes trained to see the good in others will find it, even though it will always be possible to see the negative when looking for it. Religion has always asked of its believers to make that choice--see God in the faces of those around us. Look for the good...
The Bahá'í Faith teaches that there has always been this divine guidance, and that in so far as humanity has obeyed certain core teachings, there has been continual growth towards maturity. That maturity is at hand, and the chaos around us is the natural, and familiar, result of such a transition from childhood to adult perspectives. Anyone who has lived with teenagers knows the symptoms of adolescence!
"The purpose of the one true God in manifesting Himself is to summon all mankind to truthfulness and sincerity, to piety and trustworthiness, to resignation and submissiveness to the Will of God, to forbearance and kindliness, to uprightness and wisdom. His object is to array every man with the mantle of a saintly character, and to adorn him with the ornament of holy and goodly deeds." -- Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 298
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