Wednesday, October 5, 2016

It's Something You Do

It's action. It's a noun, but it is action. Kind of breaks the rules of grammar, right? Verbs are action words. But "kindness" isn't a verb, not grammatically anyway. This noun "kindness" requires action.

It isn't enough to think kind thoughts, although that isn't necessarily a bad thing. That is sure better than thinking unkind thoughts. But kindness requires that you actually do a kind act. Not just a "nice" behavior, but a kindness.

This means that you first of all have to care. You have to care about the situation where kindness is needed, not just about how you will be perceived or recognized if you do it. Kindness comes from the heart. You feel the need for kindness.

Then you think about what you can do. So, yes, you need to use your brain to decide what to do. This is important because you want to consider the consequences of your behavior. You may care about the situation but not every behavior will help. Sometimes our choice of behavior can harm someone or make the situation worse. So we have to consider the possible consequences before we choose to act.

Sometimes a little research is necessary to know what will do more good than harm. We need to know what will or won't help, what is going to potentially make things worse. We need to consider if our behavior will enable someone to continue in a harmful path. Finding a down and out person who has lost all he or she has gambling might not benefit from a cash gift with no support for dealing with their gambling addiction. So kindness often means getting to know the situation better. It would be kinder to spend time with that person to find out what brought them to this state of being and to encourage them to seek help for their addiction.

Kindness is often more than a one-shot gesture. To be truly kind one must make personal contact with and sometimes a commitment to where the need is. To be truly kind it must make you stretch a bit out of your comfort zone. Perhaps you can only donate money. Money can be an important part of helping in a situation. But to be truly kind you need to give enough that you have sacrificed something yourself. No, you don't have to give up everything you have to be kind. But do stretch. Make the gift meaningful by investing part of yourself in it.

It's wonderful to have good intentions, beliefs, thoughts, and words. But what matters, ultimately, is what we do, the actions we take. "Our deeds are with us wherever we go. For good or ill we cannot be free of them. We are the beneficiaries of our deeds. We inherit their effects. We suffer - or enjoy - the consequences of our deeds."*

"Help your sister's boat across the water, and your's too will reach the other side.Kindness is its own motive. We are mad kind by being kind." (Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind)

* A Short Course in Kindness, Margot Silk Forrest.


  1. A true act of kindness is most often spur of the moment. It is done without thought of being paid back, or being recognized in any way. Kindness is between two people, the one doing whatever it is, and the person receiving the kindness. There is no need for others to be involved.

  2. Yes. At the base of kind action is caring. Without caring it becomes something else. When it is done with thoughts of what you might get in return, it isn't really kindness. However, it is important to consider what the consequences of the action may be. It may be that what you think is kindness will not be good or helpful or wanted by the other. Sometimes it could be harmful. And sometimes the kindest thing we can do is to give the other person space, not doing anything really, just letting them be. But that probably should be after you ask them if that is what they need. Otherwise it might come off as cold or cruel. Interactions with people are seldom as simple as we think!