Article: We Can Choose to Be Kind

My father always told us, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

This  motto could have been an attempt to have some quiet in a house with six children or perhaps instilling this value in all of us at a young age just made him a great dad. Attending 12 years of Catholic school, we were indoctrinated into some ideas and values I have chosen to leave far behind me, although a few have stuck.   One of them is the verse, Love thy neighbor as thyself. It always seemed more a sensible guide than religious dogma to me. Respect for others, equality for all, helping one another, and simply being kind are how I practice this bit of biblical advice from the nuns at St. Aiden’s. The word practice is essential here. Some days are just easier than others, especially these last few years.

I wholeheartedly believe most of us strive to be kind to one another.   As the new director of MAP, I have been on the proverbial “road show,” introducing myself and talking about MAP’s mission to as many of you as possible. I often begin these talks by describing Maine as having a reputation for kind, generous, supportive, and helpful people. These traits describe the microcosm of the Maine bar as well. Even in our often-adversarial relationships, civility and benevolence can be a touchstone. I’ve watched interactions between attorneys for over a decade. I’ve seen thoughtful, respectful conversations and outcomes that neither side is thrilled with. Still, a resolution can be reached with justice and compromise as the goal and with a professional and tolerant debate. When discussions remain focused and cordial, we not only get the job done, we can enjoy our interactions.

The research bears this out. Studies show acts of kindness improve physical and psychological health. The simple act of helping a friend in need can benefit not only the friend but our health and wellness too. Kind people have a higher sense of meaning and purpose in life and have higher self-esteem and a sense of self-efficacy. They also experienced less depression and anxiety and better physical health.

What’s not to like about that? We can choose to be kinder in this new year, and everyone wins.










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