Kindness is a super power, according to kindness.org. And I couldn’t agree more. But further, the sentiment rings true: kindness, in fact, doesn’t cost a thing. So why don’t more of us – our society even – practice it and show more kindness to those around us? I pose that question more as a rhetorical one for the fact that I don’t think there’s really any one specific answer for it. But that said, that doesn’t stop me – nor should it stop you – from showing kindness whenever possible.
Let me elaborate.
Many would argue that we live in a world (or if you’d rather, a society / culture / country) that seemingly has never been more divided, a world that is inundated with negative, depressing, and sad stories (just turn on any news channel or log into any news-related media source). That said, I’m not suggesting we dig our heads in the sand nor plug our ears with our fingers and hum “I can’t hear you” while living in denial – I’m merely stating that we are beyond inundated with these unkind stories while all of the good, positive, motivational, and kind stories often go unseen and seem lost, or are at least far from highlighted. And that, I think, is a crying shame.
For that reason, I wanted to highlight kindness and the positive attributes of it. Because to be kind to someone, well, frankly, it could potentially mean all the difference in that person’s life. And wouldn’t you rather be kind than indifferent or even cruel? I certainly would prefer to be any and all forms of positive and kind. And that too has been the mantra here at Main Street Magazine and on our podcast Main Street Moxie, we are in fact all about spreading (almost exclusively) good, positive, and motivational stories – ones that inspire kindness at every step of the way. I just wish other media sources would put more emphasis on it too.
What is kindness?
To ensure that we are all on the same page, Merriam Webster Dictionary defines kindness as “the quality or state of being kind” or “a kind deed: favor”. Wikipedia explains it as, “Kindness is a type of behavior marked by acts of generosity, consideration, rendering assistance, or concern for others, without expecting praise or reward in return.” Seems simple enough, right?
To take that further, the website Kindness 101 states, “Kindness can mean different things to different people. The meaning is in how YOU choose to show it. Be it through empathy, acceptance, kind gestures, thoughtfulness, the possibilities are entirely up to you. Kindness might look like being helpful for showing empathy. It may mean doing nice things without expecting nice things in return. … Kindness goes beyond merely being nice. Think about it – would you prefer people to describe you to be ‘kind’ or ‘nice?’ There can be a lack of sincerity in just being nice; there is often a perception of doing the minimum. Whereas, being kind is doing intentional, voluntary acts of kindness. Not only when it’s easy to be kind, but when it’s hard to be.”
For me, that last part really stuck out. To be kind when it’s not just easy, but also, to be kind when it’s not expected. To be kind and never expect anything in return for your kindness. These points of kindness helped frame and define kindness further for me personally, perhaps other points might stick out and resonate for you. But regardless of which one calls to you, I think that we can all agree that we can all be kind.
Kindness is not a new term for us – it’s a hot topic in the Bible, for example. But it’s also a topic of great interest in philosophy, religion, and psychology. According to Wikipedia, the term “kindness” dates back to circa the 1300s, but the meaning evolved a bit thereafter. Regardless, it’s something that we’re all familiar with – something that we’ve all exhibited at one time or another, and have (hopefully) been on the receiving end at some time, too.
The motivation to write about kindness
In recent days I’ve coincidentally had a few conversations with both friends and strangers about kindness, which has had my head thinking about it more and more, and which ultimately lead me to pen these words here.
An author friend of mine shared with me the unkind act of a fellow author, and how that person criticized my friend’s writing and stories for no apparent reason. (In my opinion, it is crazy to criticize my friend’s talent and books because she and her books are phenomenal). It was totally out of left field, as was it unwarranted, and it blindsided my friend. She of course felt horrible and questioned her talent as a result, but more so she felt disappointed that someone that she had respected had attacked her in such a way. After consoling my friend, I thought about what we teach our kids: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. And I think that this is a lesson that we forget all too easily as we age.
I say that, because for what reason would you want to put someone down or criticize their work and accomplishments, like in my friend’s case? What is the point of it? Besides making the person whom you’re criticizing feel bad, and in other cases when you criticize someone you are merely looking to make yourself feel better (a behavior trait that I personally hate, putting others down to make yourself feel better), there’s really no point except just being cruel. So in cases like that, I always say to just keep it to yourself. Keep your mouth shut, because nine times out of ten, no one asked you for your opinion anyway. And unless you’re saying something kind, positive, helpful, or are offering helpful insights and criticisms (that you were asked for) there’s just no reason really to say anything.
I recently received an email from someone about a negative “thing” that happened in their community that basically targeted their business and the individual was understandably very upset. He just couldn’t believe that the person who targeted him had done so and in the way that they did, and for what purpose really? It was cruel and unwarranted, just like the attack on my author friend. This person went on to emphasize that you just never know what’s going on in a person’s life, and so why add to it by piling on something so negative?
I couldn’t agree more with him, because we do in fact never know what someone is going through. We all have our crosses to bear, and most of our life challenges are ones that no one else is privy to. I always implore that we have empathy for others, give them the benefit of the doubt, and if all else fails if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. As for the things that people might be going through: they could simply be having a bad day, some folks struggle with illnesses (some of which are invisible), others are having to care for a loved one or an aging parent which is stressful, some have relationship struggles while others have financial struggles… and the list continues. Regardless of what it is, everyone has something. And it’s never easy.
Be kind and show empathy.
So that begs the question: why can’t we show those around us kindness and understanding instead of criticism or unkindness? It doesn’t cost a thing. In fact, being kind far outweighs anything else.
There are many benefits to being kind
Were you aware of the fact that there are in fact a number of scientific health benefits to both being kind and being on the receiving end of kindness? No? Let me share a number with you from the Everyday Health website:
Kindness is an antidote to stress
Kindness can help with anxiety and depression
Kindness may improve heart health
Kindness may help with diabetes management
Kindness can help people with cancer feel supported
Kindness promotes happiness
Kindness may help you live longer
(To learn more about each of these, the hows and whys, click on the link at the bottom of this article.)
With all of those amazing benefits (besides the obvious one that being kind is just an awesome thing to be), I think that we can all challenge ourselves to do better and be kinder.
Learn to be kind. Teach kindness.
As with anything else, it just takes practice. It takes doing it with intention as well as being self-aware and conscious of the act, and after a while it’ll become second nature. And then you will automatically be leading by example too. I’d call that a win-win.
The Inspire Kindness website outlined three specific methods to teach kindness and they are to be kind to yourself; to practice, practice, practice; and to say thank you. The argument that they make for being kind to yourself is first the mentality of if you can show yourself kindness, you can also show it to others. Secondly, it is the mentality of “monkey see, monkey do” and that it is part of human nature to mimic behaviors that we see in others. So by being kind to ourselves and also being kind to those around us, we are exemplifying kind behavior that others can then emulate (hopefully).
Their next two points about practice and saying thank you have much to do with intention. Practicing kindness can come in many forms such as being a volunteer, donating, stepping up in a group or organization when they ask for volunteers, or helping to coach your kids’ sports team. It can also be as simple as giving someone a compliment, holding the door open for someone, or wishing someone to have a great day.
In the same vein, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of saying “thank you”. By telling someone “thank you”, you are not only reinforcing their behavior but showing them that you took the time to not just appreciate them and their effort, but are also telling them. Everyone wants to be seen and appreciated. It won’t take you but a moment to tell someone “thank you”.
And by the way, thank YOU for reading this article!
This all sounds so easy, and do-able. Something that we could and should all incorporate into our lives, or at least aim to. So let’s make a pledge, all of us – together. Just like the movie with Haley Joel Osment, Pay It Forward, let’s pay it forward. Every day do something kind, something for someone else – whether it be for a friend or family member or for a complete stranger. Just be kind, and pay it forward. Because what goes around comes around, and why not have kindness spread like wildfire?
I’ll leave you all with a few of my favorite kindness quotes:
“To kindness and love, the things we need most!” – Grinch
“Make kindness the norm.” – The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
“How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time.” – Morgan Freeman
“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the figure of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough. – Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Ask yourself: have you been kind today? Make kindness your modus operandi and change the world. “ – Annie Lenox
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – Dalai Lama
Everyday Health website:
Inspire Kindness website: