The difference is “too nice” – Where ends the virtue or begins the vice.
– Alexander Pope
Greetings from LA and Oahu!
This week we’re discussing the darkside of kindness, why religious people live longer (and how secular folks can steal their methods), and why you’ve got to get fed up with a habit before you’re ready to quit.
Your parents probably taught you, as we’re teaching our children, to be kind to others.
Don’t point. Listen when people talk. Keep your mouth shut if you’ve got nothing nice to say.
Those sort of things.
But what is kindness… really?
Obviously, we shouldn’t submit to the whims and wishes of every person we come into contact with, confusing compliance for kindness.
But we also shouldn’t cold-shoulder others when it’s unmerited.
There’s a balance.
And, as always, it’s on neither end of the scale.
Sometimes, we should point. Sometimes, we should ignore. And, sorry mom and dad, sometimes we should speak harshly.
Our parents were well intentioned.
But for many of us, those kindness instincts have gone haywire. We’re instinctively kind when firmness, straight-forwardness, brevity, or hard-headnesses are more appropriate and effective reactions.
Because we’re afraid of the alternative. What if people don’t like the real us? What if we hurt someone’s feelings? What if it causes confrontation?
Welcome to life.
Kindness should be our default. We should love others and treat others with respect.
But we should also stand up for ourselves, do what’s right, ignore bad opinions, and speak honestly. We shouldn’t just be kind, we should be bold and courageous. Valiant. Visionary. Unwavering. Relentless.
It’s a mistake to think that “kindness” trumps all those other qualities.
Kindness is just one piece of the pie.
An important piece, to be sure.
But still just a piece.
Religious people live longer.
Well, religious people who attend their faith-based meetups, that is.
In one study, people were 55% less likely to die if they regularly attended service…
“Another study, published last year in PLOS One, found that regular service attendance was linked to reductions in the body’s stress responses and even in mortality–so much so that worshippers were 55% less likely to die during the up to 18-year follow-up period than people who didn’t frequent the temple, church or mosque.”
And Blue Zones points out that “attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.”
Well, it’s actually pretty simple.
People who are part of a religious community feel a great sense of purpose, they have a wonderful support system, and they pray, which has been shown to trigger the “relaxation response, a state of mind-body rest that has been shown to decrease stress, heart rate and blood pressure; alleviate chronic disease symptoms; and even change gene expression.”
All of those things, unsurprisingly, lead to living a longer life.
So… what about those of us who aren’t particularly religious?
Where can we fill up our cup for things like community, purpose, support, and relaxation?
Here are some ideas…
Join a Group — It’s amazing how much better people feel when they’re part of a community, even if it’s a small community. Find friends, make friends, join a group with common interests, and get in the habit of meeting up with those people periodically, every week or month. This could be a book club, a sports club, or something else entirely. If you can’t find one, start one.
Meditate — Meditation provides the same benefits as prayer, perhaps even greater benefits. So spend a little time each day (5-10 minutes) meditating.
Practice Gratitude — Glass-half-full people live longer because they’re focused on the good parts of life. Get in the habit of noticing the good more often than you notice the bad. Write down things you’re grateful for every morning. There is tons of stuff to be thankful for.
Work on Things You Love — What about purpose? Do something that means something to you! We all need something to work toward. We all want to feel as though we’re making progress in our lives. Do something that’s exciting to you. Maybe that’s writing a book, starting a business, or building a family.
Getting Fed Up
Over the last few years, I developed a habit of chewing off the skin on the tips of my fingers.
This started because I’d grow calluses on my fingertips from rock climbing — one of my favorite hobbies.
And then I’d chew them off.
It became a nervous tick. I’d do it pretty much everyday but it was worse when I was anxious or depressed.
Problem is, when you’re constantly chewing off your calluses, it HURTS like hell to rock climb.
Worse than usual.
This habit was interfering with something I loved to do. And I hadn’t stopped for a long time because I didn’t think I COULD stop.
Then three weeks ago I changed my mind.
And I just decided to stop.
Haven’t done it once since then.
It’s amazing what you can do if you just make a conscious decision.
The key, it seems, is to get fed up enough that you’re really motivated to stop. If you haven’t stopped doing something that you’d like to stop doing, it’s probably just because you haven’t got to that point yet.
The “F-This” point.
When you’re ready, it’s in your power to stop.
Here is some other random stuff we found interesting this last week!
- THE VITAL AFTERLIFE OF CHERNOBYL CEMETERIES by Allegra Lab
- Can a corporation “own” a color? by The Hustle
- GRADUALISM’S PROPHET by New Left Review
Books We’re Reading
Here’s what the tribe is currently reading (let us know books you’re loving and we’ll include them in future emails!)….
- Thinking in Numbers by Daniel Tammet — “Using anecdotes, everyday examples, and ruminations on history, literature, and more, Tammet allows us to share his unique insights and delight in the way numbers, fractions, and equations underpin all our lives.”
- Skin In The Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb — “In his most provocative and practical book yet,one of the foremost thinkers of our time redefines what it means to understand the world, succeed in a profession, contribute to a fair and just society, detect nonsense, and influence others.”
- The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt — “Drawing on his twenty-five years of groundbreaking research on moral psychology, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt shows how moral judgments arise not from reason but from gut feelings. He shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and wrong, and he shows why each side is actually right about many of its central concerns.”
This Week’s Image
“Firefighters operate at the site of a wildfire in Pumarejo de Tera, near Zamora, Spain, on June 18, 2022. Firefighters continued to battle multiple fires in Spain, one of which ravaged nearly 50,000 acres of land, on the last day of an extreme heat wave that crushed the country.” via The Atlantic
This Week’s Riddle
Here’s this week’s riddle — the answer is at the bottom of the email!
What has a foot on each side and one in the middle?
This Week’s Journaling Prompt
Take some time to think through the following journaling prompt.
What is the potential darkside of kindness?
How might kindness have gotten out of control in your own life and how can you start being more honest and expressive about who you really are?
This Week’s Challenge
Don’t be unkind, but challenge yourself this week to be less instinctively “kind” than you usually are. Be yourself — whoever that may be. And be so unapologetically. You don’t need other people’s approval. Don’t act like you do.
Until next week,
Mike & Alec
Riddle Answer: A yardstick.