First Law of Kindness

“She openeth her mouth in wisdom

and the law of kindness is on her tongue.”

Proverbs 31.

I saw that saying just the other day, for the first time.  Its origin is in the Hebrew “chesed,” re-stated in the Christian tradition as above.  I was surprised to see it.  Law and kindness had never before seemed to be natural partners.

Now our subject, of course, is not religion or law but The Power of Cat.

Bugs, looking kind.

So I will getteth to The Power of Cat, yea even unto this post.  But first, I’d like to be heard about where I’ve come from.  It’s important to our subject because I started out, Cat-less, an awful long way away from the law of kindness.  Many of you have enjoyed the natural state of cat-loving grace for a long time.  Me, I’m the new kid on the block.  I’m thinking if I chart the progress that has led me to become able to join your good company, some other poor sod might not have to re-invent this wheel.

Here’s a fair description of the emotional state that was pretty much it for me, in life as I knew it up until 1992:  Hatred.

When hatred “occupies us entirely, the need for revenge crackles and glimmers among the flames that torment us.  Passion has no footing in reason . . . . [N]o matter if all it receives in return is kind feelings, courtesy, friendship, or mere patience.  Every great passion is hopeless . . . .”  – Embers, by Sandor Marai

Hopeless vengeful hatred.  Not much of a life as I cared to live it.

Fergus reappeared this morning.

But when this subject came up?  He decided to get while the getting was good.

I’ll spare you the gory details of where all this hatred started.  You’re probably glad to hear that.  But if you’re curious and you’ve a strong stomach, read Black and White, by Dani Shapiro.  The details differ in my case, but the general picture is spot on.

I had an idea, thanks to my fundamentally kind father, that I wanted kindness instead.  But how in hell’s half-acre do you learn that?  Marinating in hatred?  When reciprocal kindness, courtesy, friendship, and patience are not enough?

Short answer:  Bugs (and therapy).

Longer answer:  Become a student of the Law of Kindness.  With a view to learning how to practice it in real time.

I’m just saying.  I should put those law-school dollars (which I’m still paying off) to some good use already.

But to learn the Law of Kindness, you have to go to a different kind of law school.

First Law of Kindness:  Mere Kindness Is Not Enough.

Kindness is too mild a concept.  When you’re marinating in aversive feeling – be it hatred, grief, frustration, rage, despair, numb indifference, deep depression – for tough times like those, bartender, I’ll have a Concentrate of Kindness.  Make it a double and make it snappy.

Concentrate of Kindness is empathy.  Empathy is understanding.  I’m talking about the jet-fuel variety, the empathy, understanding, that’s cultivated by:

Experiencing feelings (no matter how awful they may be) simply, directly, fully; and

Articulating those feelings to another person (but pick your person carefully; not just anyone will do); and

Being heard by the other person, who listens with the deep commitment necessary to grasp, accurately and directly, the essence of the experience being expressed.

If you want to know more about this, check out Marshall Rosenberg’s version of empathy in Nonviolent Communication. I’m here to testify that this method has been a lifesaver for me and many others.

This is not therapy, though therapy has been helpful too, once I found the right person.  With Rosenberg empathy, there’s none of that let-me-explain-my-theory-about-what’s-wrong-with-you-in-exchange-for-you-forking-over-$200.00+/ hr thing that can go on, if you haven’t been lucky enough to find the right person.  The empathy I’m talking about is one human being listening to another human being, with skill, some practice, and, most importantly, heart.  Listening deeply and carefully; coming, with patience, to understanding.

The process, for both speaker and listener, can be a lot scarier than you might think.  There is good and sufficient reason to inhibit the feeling I’m talking about.  In my case, I needed a depth charge to blast past the final frontier of scariness.  And that depth charge was the ultimate weapon, against which all resistance was futile, why, the very idea of resistance, where this ultimate weapon is deployed –


I mean, you get that, right?  No further words are necessary on this point?

About nadbugs

Anita loves cats. This must be because she, too, has had nine lives. She’s been dancing since she could walk, she was a commercial artist and advertising producer, she earned a third-degree black belt in Aikido, she is a drummer with the Afrique Aya Dance Company, she is an attorney, and she’s a meditator and a devoted student of Nonviolent Communication. She also spent one lifetime sidelined with a devastating back injury in 1992. Since then – FELDENKRAIS METHOD® to the rescue. The FELDENKRAIS METHOD is all about dreaming concretely – thinking intelligently and independently by way of a gracious and kind physicality. The work affords all who study it a process by which to reach, with movement, into the mind and the heart, to make nine lives into one whole being.
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19 Responses to First Law of Kindness

  1. I must tell you. Your posts are so intelligent and deep that I really should wait to read them after I have been AWAKE for a number of hours!!!

    Some fabulous and meaty stuff in this one!

    Have a great day!

  2. nadbugs says:

    Caren, you are dear to me!

  3. Melanie says:

    Your post really hit home this morning. Although I’d never thought to call it the law of kindness, I have found that practicing it is the only way that I can pull myself out of the darker emotions that I have been dealing with.

    And the weapon of pink indeed. My heart is a little too raw this morning (if you’ve read my blog, you know why) to wax too poetic on how my animals have helped me get to this point, but they have accomplished what therapy, self-help books, and well-meaning friends never could.

    • nadbugs says:

      No. No, and no, and no. Unbearable.

      Here is one reason — maybe the “best” one — that it’s “better” not to let feelings in, in the first place.

  4. I hit the absolute nadir of my life exactly two years ago, and it was the kindness and empathy of others that rescued me. I understand exactly.
    I sleep with six cats under a hot pink blanket. No wonder I feel so good when I get up. Better than any pill in the world!

  5. nadbugs says:

    Doctor Katnip! Tell it! Amen and halleluyah.

  6. Marcy Benham says:

    With a secondary attack of fur, followed up by an onslaught of non-judgement! Some call it unfair tactics, most call it unconditional love. Surrender Dorothy! SO glad you’ve joined the fur-side Love! Welcome to the sheer joy of it! Love you!!

  7. I have to confess that I’ve been a cat person my entire life. And I will also confess that having those little furry beings around during hard times has been wonderful. They never repeat back the things I tell them in confidence. They never judge me for my feelings, no matter how twisted they may be. And some have even let me cry into their fur (though neither of the girls that I have now would allow that). And, as my final confession, I will admit that finding the right therapist is probably one of the best events of my life. They are rare, but they are amazing.

  8. nadbugs says:

    Oh gosh, OKs, I just LOVE this “confession.” I had my doubts about publishing this post, and only hit “send” in doubt — NO MORE! This companionship is so very heartening! You’re giving me so much back — way way more than I dreamed. THANK YOU THANK YOU!

  9. Wazeau says:

    Wonderful post. More power to the pink.

  10. Eleanor says:

    I love reading these posts of yours. Hearing about the bond between you and Bugs and that bond’s power to heal is so lovely. You really do seem to have found a wonderful friend and a wonderful therapist in that Bugsy-Boy.

    • nadbugs says:

      I do love that you enjoy here, Eleanor. We trade back and forth, believe me — your posts have picked up my moods many times, and I thank you right back.

      As for Bugs — well — wouldn’t it be wonderful to be enjoying that bond. But life comes back to bite one in the butt. So to speak. Bugs turns ugly. The wheel turns. Like I said. Send help.

      • Eleanor says:

        Oh dear, sorry, I didn’t realise. Is he just being grumbly and grouchy or is it something more?

        This post is very inspiring to me. Would you mind if I emailed you instead of leaving a mega-huge-email-length comment here? 🙂

        • nadbugs says:

          I’m not sure what’s going on with him. I plan on pondering why, in my next post. And I’d love an e-mail from you. Let me send you one, so you’ll have my address right there.

  11. lifewith4cats says:

    The ability to love a furred creature, especialy the difficult ones, is the best step to make it possible to love others of the non furred kind. Starting with love of self.

    It takes a brave person to let go of hate and resentment, but it is the more noble path. I enjoyed your post much.

    and ooh ooh, one claw holding a toy. The perfect visual why cats need claws for living happily. 🙂

  12. nadbugs says:

    Gosh, Sara, what a way you have of grasping my point so clearly. I just love this from you. I’m eager to continue the theme in my next post, and I’m hoping to be able to reflect what you say there.

    That one claw on the tassel really is something, isn’t it. What a combination of furry sweetness and ferocity this boy is.

  13. Pingback: Bone of Trust, Muscle of Kindness | catself

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