Buddhism teaches that the first of the Four Noblest Qualities of Mind (also known as the Brahma Viharas)is loving-kindness. It is said that making the commitment to love life unconditionally in all its forms is the way of the Dharma. But cultivating this attitude of loving-kindness isn't so easy.
Our days are full of reasons to not feel loving or to behave kindly. It seems there are obstacles everywhere we look. We feel anger toward the child who just callously knocked our little one over on the playground and contempt for the parents who didn't teach their child better manners. We feel impatience with the elderly driver plodding along ahead of us at a snail's pace. We feel hatred toward the pedophile being led away in hand-cuffs on the evening news.
Feeling loving towards all people sometimes seems all but impossible but we are encouraged, not just by Buddhism but by most faiths and philosophies, to develop this noble quality of mind little by little. We are told to start with prayers or meditations that focus on feelings of loving-kindness and that direct them, at first, towards those we already love - our children, spouses and best friends. Little by little we are encouraged to let those feelings of love flow a little further outward. We might begin to include more distant family members, neighbors, animals and others. Eventually, we need to try to send loving, kind thoughts and prayers towards those people we like the least - the boss who is making our life a living hell, the neighborhood kid who broke into our car looking for cash, the politicians who have forgotten that they work for us, the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Those of us who are so-inclined, struggle through this process. We pray or meditate and try our best to send love out into the world. But there is someone whom we often forget to include on our prayer or meditation list and this person is usually the one who needs love the most and gets the least. Frequently neglected, sometimes downright hated, the person we most need to send love to is