What is kindness?
Kindness is often described as a series of ethical behaviours that show consideration and goodwill to others. It is also sometimes seen as a virtue, something that is morally good of itself. Although it can be reciprocated, in its purest form it is often given without altruistically any thought for a return. An act of kindness might be showing compassion for someone or loyalty towards them. In many studies into personal relationships, it is how kind an individual considers their partner to be that usually plays a big part in their decision to get together. Some psychological studies seem to indicate that kindness might be an inherent behaviour in people. However, some people believe that is learned in early childhood about the same time that toddlers begin to get to grips with the concept of empathy.
How is kindness demonstrated in different religions?
According to Saint Paul, love is considered to be wrapped up with kindness. He wrote that love is both patient and kind in a famous letter to the early Christian community in Corinth. He considered being kind to be among the nine traits that were the fruit of the spirit. Kindness, gentleness and leniency are all considered to be beloved characteristics in the Islamic tradition, something that is echoed in many of the world's other big religions. Mettā is a Buddhist concept that is often called benevolence in English. Sometimes, it is also referred to as loving-kindness, which is demonstrated by amity with fellow human beings.
Can kindness be mistaken for weakness?
Some people will mistake a kind act as one that shows off a weakness. To take this point of view, however, necessarily misunderstands the true nature of kindness. In fact, kindness often comes from a position of mental fortitude rather than a weakness. It sometimes takes great courage to act in a kind way when you know there is the possibility of it being misinterpreted, wilfully or not.
What can you do when kindness is rejected?
It is not always easy to accept the kindness of others, especially when you are in an emotionally weakened state for some reason. Many people reject kind acts from time to time. Either because they think they are unworthy of them or because it is emotionally easier to push back than to accept. If your kindness rejected, then it is best not to show you have been hurt – even if you have – and not to be judgemental about it as this may make the situation worse. Simply try again to be kind later on, perhaps in a different way that takes into account the earlier rejection.
How can you show more kindness?
Being more patient with others is an excellent first step. You don't need to buy a gift to show you are kind to someone else. A simple note of appreciation will usually suffice. Remember that kind people are not relentlessly good – few can manage that. That said, thinking of others before yourself can become a habit that you won't regret adopting more often.