In a world where you can be anything, be kind.
As a celebrant I have the great privilege of writing wedding ceremonies for couples. One of the questions that I ask my couples is this. “What are you building your marriage on?” “What values, or qualities are you bringing to the relationship?” Some say trust and honesty, some say humour, compassion, selflessness and many say kindness.
When talking with my own adult children about choosing a partner, I encourage them to look for someone who is kind. You are either kind or you are not and there is nothing worse than someone who is mean spirited.
Kindness is a behavior marked by ethical characteristics, a pleasant disposition, and a concern for others. Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. It is known as a virtue. A virtue is a standard, it is a discipline and a moral excellence.
When it comes to virtues, these are character traits are stable, fixed, and reliable dispositions. If someone possesses the character trait of kindness, we would expect him or her to act kindly in all sorts of situations, towards all kinds of people, and over a long period of time, even when it is difficult to do so. “A person with a certain character can be relied upon to act consistently over a time” (Source).
Aristotle said that a virtuous person is someone who has ‘ideal character traits’. Virtues enable us to maintain life-giving relationships and they are based on love of the ‘other’ person. Kindness is a disposition that leans toward constantly doing good.
A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
It is a simple truth, that a tree is known by its fruit. Kindness is a virtue or human characteristic that determines the type of tree. In the bible kindness is known as a ‘fruit of the Spirit of God’. The fruits of the Spirit are listed as: love, joy peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, meekness, temperance and faith. A fruit of the Spirit is the evidence, or the proof, of the spirit of God moving through us. They are the characteristics of God himself.
The Greek word for “kindness” is chrēstotēs. It means “benignity, tender concern, uprightness.” It is kindness of heart and kindness of act.
We can all practice kindness. It does not cost any money but it may take some time and energy. It may require thoughtfulness, to smile, to visit, to comfort or to offer encouragement or show friendliness. It is important to reiterate that for kindness to be a virtue it has to be a consistant trait that is displayed over time and not done to receive something in return. Moral character is something that develops over time.
Moral development in the early stages relies on good examples. This is why it is important as parents to understand positive character traits and apply them to your own life. This virtuous example is then learned by children who are able to develop good characteristics with the help of parents and other good role models.
Kindness changes the brain.
‘The neuroscience and social science research is clear: kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it so that they can reproduce it’ (Source Psychology Today).
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
― Henry James
Kindness and love require the belief that others are worthy of attention and affirmation for no other reasons but for their own sake. If you believe this then you would endorse the following statements (Positive Psychology):
- Others are just as important as me.
- All human beings are of equal worth.
- Having a warm and generous affect seems to bring reassurance and joy to others.
- Giving is more important than receiving.
- Doing good for others with love and kindness is the best way to live.
- I am not the center of the universe but part of a common humanity.
- People who are suffering need compassion.
- People in need require care.
“‘Positive interpersonal relationships are crucial to a healthy and happy life. What contributes to these kinds of relationships? I am convinced that loving kindness is a major factor. Kind people are generally physically and psychologically healthier; they attract more intimate relationships; their marriages are happier; they touch more lives and are touched more by others; they elicit kindness from others; they are better teachers in the eyes of students”. (See Piero Ferrucci’s The Power of Kindness).
No wonder the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness.” He advises that if you want others to be happy, be kind; and if you yourself want to be happy, be kind.
Aldous Huxley toward the end of his life said,
“People often ask me what the most effective technique for transforming their life is. It is a little embarrassing that after years and years of research and experimentation, I have to say that the best answer is — just be a little kinder”‘ (Sheikh).
We also need to be kind to ourselves. Especially the hurt and broken parts of ourselves. The unlovely parts of us. Kindness brings healing when we can accept our faults, our mistakes our hurts. When we are kind enough to recognise that we have all hard hard times and we have all made bad choices.
Be kind to yourself by taking breaks, resting, recharging, doing things that you enjoy.
We need to find grace in our own stories. One of the greatest proponents of healing is when we have the courage to tell our story. When our story is received with grace and kindness then shame and fear drop away.
It is a revelation to realise that we are often the caretakers of our own prisons. We are the ones holding the keys to our own prison cells and we are the ones punishing ourselves. We need to be kind enough to ourselves to say, I can let go of this now, I don’t have to keep myself in bondage anymore, I can be brave enough to tell my story, receive forgiveness, forgive myself and move on.
“Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” — Mark Twain
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