Have you ever given much thought to the concept of kindness? What it is, how it works, why it’s important?
The wonderful thing about being kind, is indeed, just how easy it is. A word, a smile, one small act that demonstrates caring and consideration; all of these show a generosity of spirit.
But what, exactly, is kindness?
And why is kindness so important?
What is Kindness?
Kindness is highly valued and considered to be a virtue in most religions and cultures throughout the world. The same has been seen throughout history.
Kindness has even been awarded its own holiday. February 17th has been designated as National Random Acts of Kindness Day. It is celebrated by individuals, groups, and organizations nationwide to encourage acts of kindness.
But, what exactly constitutes kindness?
Kindness is a quality of being generous and considerate, with no expectation of reward, credit, or return of similar.
Quite simply, it’s doing something nice without getting anything in return. Rather, it’s simply because doing something nice is a good and right thing to do.
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Kindness is also known by several other terms. It may be known as good-heartedness, benevolence, altruism, courtesy, goodwill, graciousness, good intention, or solicitousness.
There are many, many ways of demonstrating this positive behavior, and they can be more or less broken down into three main categories: kindness to others, kindness to self, and kindness to the world.
For some specific ideas related to all three types of kindness, read 50 Acts of Kindness to Make the World a Better Place.
What is Kindness From One Person to Another?
The most commonly thought of acts of kindness are those given from one person to another.
The recipient of the act may or may not be someone who is known to the person performing the act of kindness. They could be a family member, friend, acquaintance – or total stranger.
Classic examples of person to person kindness include helping an elderly person cross the street, carrying someone’s groceries, or paying for the coffee order of the person in line behind you.
Essentially, any nice action you take that benefits someone else and is given without expectation of anything in return can be considered an act of kindness.
The wonderful thing is that it is so incredibly easy to be kind.Ingrid Newkirk
Read More About Kindness Toward Others:
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- Make a Difference Day: 4 Inspiring Stories
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- 50 Acts of Kindness to Make the World a Better Place
- The Amazing Benefits of a Hug
- Showing Kindness to Your Neighbors
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- Easiest Neighborhood Event Ever: The Pop-Up Party
What is Kindness Directed Inward?
An often-overlooked form of kindness is kindness toward one’s self, also called self-care. The consideration someone directs inward is vital to any person’s well-being.
This kindness should not be confused with self-indulgence.
Rather, it demonstrates self-respect because the way we treat ourselves is often reflected in our behavior toward others, and it tells the world how we expect others to treat us.
First and foremost, if we maintain healthy emotional boundaries and direct love and kindness inwards, we are taking care of ourselves and secondly we are giving a subliminal message to others about how we wish to be treated. People tend to subconsciously treat us how we treat ourselves.Christopher Dines
Examples of good intentions toward the self could be relaxing in a hot bath at the end of a long day, exercising to keep your body healthy, or participating in a favorite hobby or sport.
It can also be mental kindness – accepting and forgiving yourself for a mistake, choosing to stay home and read a book instead of going to a party you aren’t interested in attending, or speaking honestly when someone has hurt or upset you.
Kindness toward oneself is a state of accepting yourself as you are, forgiving your past, and setting goals for your future.
Read More About Kindness Toward Ourselves:
What is Kindness Toward The World?
This unselfishness isn’t always directed toward specific people – and not necessarily even people at all. Animals, plants, and the world as a whole all benefit from acts of good intention. Yes, the world needs kindness.
Rescuing a dog or cat from a high-kill shelter, planting trees in the local park, cleaning up trash along the shoreline.
Purchasing sustainable products from ethical companies, minimizing the use of plastics, walking instead of driving.
The familiar “reduce, reuse, recycle”.
All of these acts and choices demonstrate goodwill toward our world and are considered to be acts of kindness.
Read More About Kindness Toward Our World:
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- Give the Gift of Fair Trade
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The Significance of Kindness
Research has shown that kindness has some very positive effects on the person who does the thoughtful act.
Those who demonstrate goodness report increased happiness, healthier hearts, slower aging, and better relationships than others who do not consider themselves as altruistic. The more actively a person demonstrates this good intention, the more dramatic these effects can be.
This is evidence that kindness is really very important not only for the recipient, but also for the doer or giver of the kindness.
It’s also a proven fact that people grow more benevolent with practice. Perhaps due to the positive reactions we receive when we are good to others, the more kindness we show, the more likely we are to continue our gracious behavior. Kindness begets more of the same.
Imagine how a few sincere acts of kindness could change a person, spread to others, and change the world! How will you contribute?
Final Thoughts on What is Kindness and Why is it Important
Hopefully, the concept of kindness, as well as the importance of kindness, are now crystal clear for you. And although our society may often seem to reward us for being “tough” and intractable, the reality is that kindness is a valuable and necessary part of all of our lives. We can always use more, but there’s an awful lot out there already if you look for it.
There are clear benefits to kindness, whether you find yourself on the giving or receiving end of it. And as Ingrid Newkirk so aptly stated,
“The wonderful thing is that it’s so incredibly easy to be kind.”