What is Kindness?
Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. It is a behaviour marked by ethical characteristics, a pleasant disposition, and concern and consideration for others. It is considered a virtue, and is recognised as a value in many cultures and religions. Kindness can be shown by expressing concern toward the welfare of others. Kindness where someone gives without expecting anything in return speaks to others like a language of love- from one heart to another. Kindness can be shown to others using either speech or actions. A kind word and forgiveness is better than a kind action followed by injury or reminder. Kind actions has most effect on bettering ourselves and helping others if not followed by constant reminder or injury.
Why is kindness important?
This question can be approached by asking ourselves- how does it make us feel when another individual shows us kindness? Let us imagine a world without kindness?
Kindness brings people together. It provides a platform on which love and compassion can grow both within ourselves and within others.
Even just small acts of kindness can have huge benefits to both the giver and the receiver and help to bring a positive sense of purpose and meaning into our lives and to existence.
How can kindness help us?
By being kind to others- we both directly and indirectly help ourselves and kindness can help to improve our sense of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Showing kindness to others can be just as rewarding as receiving it from others. Some studies have shown that spending money on others makes us happy- even happier than spending on ourselves. Kindness can create a virtuous cycle that promotes lasting happiness both in ourselves and others, and altruism. It is contagious and can be addictive in a positive way. It grows and grows.
Receiving kindness can benefit us directly by helping to improve our sense of ‘feeling loved’ and ‘respected’ and ‘valued’. This can help us to feel more comfortable with being ourselves, being true to ourselves, and help to improve our self-confidence. However receiving kindness without a balance in giving as much or more than we receive, can lead to arrogance, pride, selfishness, having an ego, and thinking that we are more worthy than others. However, gratitude can help to protect us from getting ‘spoiled’ by receiving kindness form others and help us to establish a better relationship with others who sometimes expect a return for their kindness. Receiving kindness form others can help those who show us kindness- and if it is received with this intention- to help others to purify themselves and become happier individuals- then can be considered as a kind act in itself. When others show us kindness, it often enables us to be more pardoning and forgiving towards them, love them more, respect them more, trust them more, and can help us to establish better friendships, longer lasting, more loving relationships which involve trust, forgiveness, and respect towards those who show us kindness.
Physical health and kindness: Witnessing acts of kindness produces a hormone in our bodies called ‘oxytocin- sometimes referred to as the ‘love hormone.’- this aids in lowering our blood pressure and improving our overall heart health. Kindness decreases pain, by generating endorphins ( the brain’s natural painkiller) and so the more kind we are, the less likely we are to suffer as badly from chronic and acute health problems which involves the sensation of physical pain. Therefore it can help conditions such as fibromyalgia, and other chronic pain syndromes.
Mental Health and kindness: Other benefits of the hormone oxytocin include helping to boost our self-esteem and optimism which can then help to lower our anxiety levels and symptoms of depression, helping us to feel more confident within ourselves and help us in social situations. Acts of kindness act as a natural behavioural therapy and as an ‘anti-depressant.’ Studies have shown that people who are prone to hostility who make an effort to engage in small acts of kindness towards their close loved ones can significantly reduce their level of depressive symptoms and increase their levels of satisfaction and happiness.
Emotional Health and Kindness: Involving ourselves in acts of kindness often creates an ‘emotional warmth’ within ourselves, helps to lower stress levels and help open the doorway to other emotions such as ‘love’ ‘compassion’ ‘respect’ ‘joy’ ‘gratitude’ ‘integrity’ ‘justice’ and ‘forgiveness.’ When we increase our levels of kindness and embrace the other positive emotions that can come with it- we can help to improve our wellbeing in all aspects- especially if we get the right balance. It can help us to feel more ‘alive’ and ‘present’ and help us to really embrace and enjoy our human existence and presence in this world.
Spiritual health and kindness: From a spiritual perspective, acts of kindness can help to ‘purify’ our souls from selfishness and the stains of ‘sin.’ Kind acts are often spiritually seen as an investment in God, especially when they are done without any expectation of return in this world- not even a thank you. When we give without the expectation of return- it is like investing in God- it is like a tree of life that grows to produce abundance in fruit- the fruits of life which money cannot buy. It can help to create an opening to our hearts and souls and minds, making room for compassion, for love, for the desire to sacrifice of what we love for the benefit of others. By engaging in acts of kindness, we often find it easier to be able to make a connection with other people, our loved ones, and even those we have not met before- and most importantly with our Creator- which in turn enables us to establish a relationship with Him and involve him in all that we do- The kinder we are, the less selfish we become, the more we purify ourselves- and the more worthy we feel to be able to have a purer direct connection with The Higher Source of Life- with God. Kindness itself can sometimes begin as a selfish act which we do to benefit ourselves. But the more we engage in helping others- the more it comes naturally to us, becomes part of us, and compassion enters our hearts. When there is compassion and kindness and love together- we reach the ability to grow and want to engage in acts of kindness, not in order to receive anything in return but because we both believe it is the right thing to do, and also because our reward is knowing that it pleases our Creator- even if it means that we have to suffer for it (see sacrifice, love and compassion)
How can kindness help others?
Acts of kindness which are followed by constant reminders of the kindness and injury- can cause more harm than good. It can cause damage to people’s sense of dignity and make them feel ‘controlled’ and ‘manipulated’. The less we expect in return for our kindnesses to others from the receiver, the more it will help that individual or group of individuals. When we help others, without an expectation for anything in return- it can be a very powerful way to ‘inspire’ them to be kind too, help them to put down their defences, help them to feel less ‘scared’ to give to others and to show others love- because they themselves have been shown love. It can enable them to be more pardoning to others, more forgiving, and trust others more. Therefore it helps others to establish more loving and lasting relationships with people around them. When we are kind, we help bring ‘hope’ to others’ lives- especially if they were in a great need for the act of kindness. Even small acts of kindness like helping an old lady across the road, or picking up a bit of litter from the street, or feeding the ducks in the park- can trigger off an oxytocin rush in individuals that witness it- bringing them a sense of joy and happiness. When we create a reality where altruism really does exist- people trust one another more, invest in each other more, and are less likely to act in a selfish way to those around them. Being kind, helps others in the same way that it helps us when others show us kindness. The same emotions that we feel when we are shown kindness- we trigger off in others when we show them kindness. It enables us to treat one another how we ourselves want to be treated. It can have both a direct and indirect effect on others’ mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
How can we be more Kind?
Being ‘more kind’ is relative. It depends on how kind we are to start with, and how kind we want to let ourselves become. How kind we are depends on how selfish we are, as well as many other factors. The intention behind our intention to become more kind can also affect our ability to better ourselves and our levels of kindness. For example, if our intention to become more kind is to benefit ourselves, it will reach a limit to how much it can grow, whereas if the intention becomes more altruistic and is more about genuinely helping others, this can help to set us free from any boundaries.
SELF HELP EXERCISE ( over 2 weeks)
In order to be able to get the most out of a journey of bettering ourselves through acts of kindness in the future-from now- it can be very helpful to first of all reflect on our behaviours in the past, and present. Let us start by asking ourselves;
In the last week- can I remember any act of kindness that I have received from someone else? (write these down).. if so- how did this make me feel? If you cannot think of any, go back further in time- the last month? The last year? Write down how it made you feel, what it was and why you think it made you feel like this. What is your relationship with this person?
Now think of an act of kindness that you have shown to another person- doesn’t matter if it was small act of kindness- like kind words, to make someone feel better, or going out of your way to give someone directions for example, or even smiling at a stranger in the street, or letting someone in front of you in a queue who is in a rush, or helping to carry some shopping for a neighbour.. Write it down- now reflect on how you think it made them feel- and how it made you feel knowing that you helped someone else. Now reflect on why you did this act of kindness. What were your intentions? Were you expecting anything in return from the receiver? Did they show you gratitude? If not- how did this make you feel? Write down your thoughts and reflections.
Now try to think of ten small acts of kindness that you received in the last 7 days from another person and write them down. If you cannot think of ten in the last 7 days, go further back in time, a month- or a year. Write them down.
Now think of ten small acts of kindness that you did for other people in the last 7 days. If you cannot, then go back further in time, a month or a year. Write them down.
Now repeat the reflection exercise for question 2, for all the other small acts of kindnesses received and performed in 3 and 4. Reflect on how each kindness made you feel, how you expect it made the recipient feel, and how it has affected you relationship with those people, or others, through the act of kindness.
Now make a plan for the week ahead. Think of ten small acts of kindnesses that you would like to do for other people over the next week. Write them down like a checklist and each day try to do at least 1-2 of these small acts of kindness until they are all done. They can be aimed at loved ones, or people that you do not know. Reflect on what the intention is behind engaging in these acts of kindness. Is it to help beat depression and anxiety? IS it to help yourself feel better? Is it to help someone else feel better? How would you feel if the recipient didn’t even say thank you, or know that it was you that performed that act of kindness? How would this make you feel?
Repeat exercise 2 for the acts of kindness performed from your checklist. Reflect on how it made you feel and how you hop it made the recipient feel.
Now think of 10 small acts of kindness for the following week- except this time, aimed at individuals that you have never met before, and try to keep it secret so that even those individuals, who receive the kindness, do not know that it is you that is providing the act. Write them down. Perform them just like in step 7 for the previous week, and reflect each day on the acts of kindnesses performed- how do we expect it made them feel? How did it make you feel?
Now compare your reflections on your emotions from week 1 to your emotions from week 2. This exercise should help us to reflect and learn more about our intentions when it comes to performing acts of kindness to help others and whether they are truly altruistic or whether we do them more to benefit ourselves rather than others.
It is human nature, and naturally ok to perform small acts of kindness because we know it helps us- but as we continue the journey through self-purification through kindness, we break free from selfish boundaries which limit us and others through our acts- through persevering, despite knowing that it might be selfish. The outcome in both cases is good- it helps someone else, and therefore both public and secret acts of kindness should be encouraged. However, to achieve true piety, over time, we reach a point where performing the acts of kindness, comes naturally- we do not feel that we are going against ourselves to perform it, we do not do it to expect anything in return, and it becomes part of ourselves, while we begin to truly start loving others how we love ourselves and treating others how we want to be treated.
(Above Writings are based on the reflections of Dr Lale Tuncer)
Scripture Quotes on Kindness
'Life and death are in the hands of the tongue.' Proverbs 18:21
‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ Leviticus 19:18
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”Matthew 25:35-40
“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”Proverbs 19:17
'Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.' Proverbs 27:10
'For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’- Deuteronomy 15:11
“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother"- Deuteronomy 15:7
'A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.'- Proverbs 17:17
'And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' Matthew 25:40
'Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.' Proverbs 19:17
'Your own soul is nourished when you are kind; it is destroyed when you are cruel.'Proverbs 11:17
'Kindness and faithfulness keep a king safe, through kindness his throne is made secure.' Proverbs 20:28
'Goodness does not consist in turning your face towards East or West. The truly good are those who believe in God and the Last Day, in the angels, the Scripture, and the prophets; who give away some of their wealth, however much they cherish it, to their relatives, to orphans, the needy, travelers and beggars and to liberate those in debt and bondage; those who keep up the prayers and pay the prescribed alms; who keep pledges whenever they make them; who are steadfast in misfortune, adversity and times of danger. These are the ones who are true, and it is they who are aware of God. Quran 2:178
'Indeed, God enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression. He admonished you that you may take heed.'Quran 16:91
'And as for those who strive in Our path — We will surely guide them in Our ways. And Indeed, Allah is with those who are of service to others.' Quran 29:70
'Indeed, God is with those who are righteous and those who do good.' Quran 16:129
'O ye people! fear your Lord, Who created you from a single soul and created therefrom its mate, and from them twain spread many men and women; and fear God, in Whose name you appeal to one another, and be mindful of your duty to God, particularly respecting ties of relationship. Verily, God watches over you. Quran 4:2
In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful. Beginning of each chapter Quran
'And good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that which is best. And lo, he between whom and thyself was enmity will become as though he were a warm friend. But none is granted it save those who are steadfast; and none is granted it save those who possess a large share of good.' Quran 41:35-36
'Those who spend in prosperity and adversity, and those who suppress anger and pardon men; and Allah loves those who do good.' Quran 3:135
So God gave them the reward of this world, as also an excellent reward of the next; and God loves those who do good. Quran 3:149
'And who is better in faith than he who submits himself to God, and he is a doer of good, and follows the religion of Abraham, the upright? And God took Abraham for a special friend. Quran 4:126
…'So pardon them and turn away from them. Surely, God loves those who do good.' Quran 5:14
'No blame lies on the weak, nor on the sick, nor on those who find naught to spend, if they are sincere to God and His Messenger. There is no cause of reproach against those who do good deeds; and God is Most Forgiving, Merciful.Quran 9:91
'And be thou steadfast; for surely, God suffers not the reward of the righteous to perish.' Quran 11:116
'They replied, ‘Art thou Joseph?’ He said, ‘Yes, I am Joseph and this is my brother. God has indeed been gracious to us. Verily, whoso is righteous and is steadfast — God will never suffer the reward of the good to be lost.’ (Al Quran 12:91)
'Their flesh reaches not God, nor does their blood, but it is your righteousness that reaches Him. Thus has He subjected them to you, that you may glorify God for His guiding you. And give glad tidings to those who do good.' Quran 22:38
'A guidance and a mercy for those who do good.' Quran 31:4
‘But if you desire God and His Messenger and the Home of the Hereafter, then truly God has prepared for those of you who do good a great reward.’ Quran 33:30
'And he who submits himself completely to God, and is a doer of good, he has surely grasped a strong handle. And with God rests the end of all affairs.' Quran 31:23
'‘Thou hast indeed fulfilled the dream.’ Thus indeed do We reward those who do good.' Quran 37:106
'Thus indeed do We reward those who do good.' Quran 37:132
'And spend for the cause of God, and cast not yourselves into ruin with your own hands, and do good; surely, God loves those who do good.' Quran 2:196
'And remember the time when We took a covenant from the children of Israel: ‘You shall worship nothing but God and show kindness to parents and to kindred and orphans and the poor, and speak to men kindly and observe Prayer, and pay the Zakat;’ then you turned away in aversion, except a few of you.' Quran 2:84
'They ask thee what they shall spend. Say: ‘Whatever of good and abundant wealth you spend should be for parents and near relatives and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer. And whatever good you do, surely God knows it well.’ Quran 2:216
'And worship God and associate naught with Him, and show kindness to parents, and to kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and to the neighbor that is a kinsman and the neighbor that is a stranger, and the companion by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. Surely, God loves not the proud and the boastful.' Quran 4:37
'Say, ‘Come, I will rehearse to you what your Lord has forbidden: that you associate not anything as partner with Him and that you do good to parents, and that you kill not your children for fear of poverty — it is We Who provide for you and for them — and that you approach not foul deeds, whether open or secret; and that you kill not the life which God has made sacred, save by right. That is what He has enjoined upon you, that you may understand.' Quran 6:152
'Thy Lord has commanded, “Worship none but Him, and show kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age with thee, never say unto them any word expressive of disgust nor reproach them, but address them with excellent speech.' Quran 17:24
'And We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents; but if they strive to make thee associate that with Me of which thou hast no knowledge, then obey them not. Unto Me is your return, and I shall inform you of what you did.' Quran 29:9
'Consort with them in kindness; and if you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing wherein God has placed much good.' Quran 4:20
'And they ask thee concerning the orphans. Say: ‘Promotion of their welfare is an act of great goodness. And if you intermix with them, they are your brethren. And God knows the mischief-maker from the reformer. And if God had so willed, He would have put you to hardship. Surely, God is Mighty, Wise.’ Quran 2:21
'And when other relations and orphans and the poor are present at the division of heritage, give them something therefrom and speak to them words of kindness.' Quran 4:9
'Those who believe and do good deeds — the Gracious God will create love in their hearts.' Quran 19:97
'If ye publish your almsgiving, it is well, but if ye hide it and give it to the poor, it will be better for you, and will atone for some of your ill-deeds. God is Informed of what ye do.' Quran 2:271
'O you who have believed, do not invalidate your charities with reminders or injury as does one who spends his wealth [only] to be seen by the people and does not believe in God and the Last Day. His example is like that of a [large] smooth stone upon which is dust and is hit by a downpour that leaves it bare. They are unable [to keep] anything of what they have earned. And God does not guide the disbelieving people.' Quran 2:264
'A kind word with forgiveness is better than almsgiving followed by injury. God is Absolute, Clement.' Quran 2:263