Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Please, May I Be Kind?

Remembering our deepest intention.

Key points

  • To be kind, you must swerve regularly from your path.
  • Focusing on our own concerns and stress can put us in a trance, covering over our natural sensitivity and compassion.
  • Today, what will help you remember to be kind?

One of my favorite quotes is taped on a wall in my office: “To be kind, you must swerve regularly from your path.” I need this reminder. Like so many, when I’m caught up in my busyness, trying to cross things off the list and on my way to somewhere else, I'm not so sensitive to opportunities to be kind. My attention is goal directed, and my heart can be tight.

Vicky Alvarez, used with permission
Source: Vicky Alvarez, used with permission

A study done at Princeton Theological Seminary revealed a lot about how this kind of narrow self-focus can get in the way of bringing compassion to our world. To look at the impact of time pressure on helpful behavior, the researchers told a group of seminary students that they would be going to a room across campus to each present a talk on the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan. As the students knew, in that story two important religious people pass right by a man on the street clearly needing help, and only a man who is considered a social outcast stops to assist him.

Some of the students were told they had just a few minutes to get to the classroom before the session for their talks would begin. Others were told they had enough time to get there on schedule. Then they were all sent individually on a route that would take them past a man (one of the researcher’s associates) slumped in a doorway, coughing and obviously in need of help. Despite the fact that they were all on their way to present a talk about the Good Samaritan, only 10% of the students in the time-pressured group stopped to offer help. More than half (63%) of those in the group with less time pressure did stop.

I share this study frequently because our world desperately needs us to take care of each other, and swerving from our scheduled paths is not something we easily do. Focusing on our own concerns and stress can put us in a trance, covering over our natural sensitivity and compassion.

Over the years I’ve found a daily practice that helps my heart wake up from this goal-oriented trance. Each morning at the end of my meditation, I pray to remember throughout the day to be kind. Sometimes I simply whisper, “Please may I be kind,” and often I scan to see who I might be in touch with that day so I can stay attuned to kindness when I’m with them. At the end of the day, I reflect back to see if I was openhearted with others. There is a sense of gladness when I see that I was. And when I realize that sometimes I hadn’t swerved to be kind, I am accepting of this with compassion, and gratitude that I noticed. This allows me to then deepen the resolve that my heart may continue to awaken.


Can you recall situations during this past week in which you did swerve from your path to be kind? Situations where you wish you had swerved? You might ask yourself every morning: “Today, what will help me remember to be kind?” And then check in each evening, reviewing the day with self-compassion, to support the awakening of your heart.

Excerpted from Trusting the Gold: Uncovering Your Natural Goodness by Tara Brach, PhD (Illustrations by Vicky Alvarez). Sounds True, 2021


Brach, T. (2021). Trusting the Gold: Uncovering Your Natural Goodness (V.Alvarez, Illus.). Sounds True.

More from Psychology Today

More from Tara Brach Ph.D.

More from Psychology Today