05. Kindness: To be friendly, caring and considerate 

What would you do?

In 2014, builder Vince from Essex, UK was asked to quote on building an accessible bathroom for 12-year-old Katie Anderson, who was born with neurofibromatosis, a disease which causes tumours to grow along her nerves. Instead of charging the usual fees for his work, Vince responded with a simple and practical act of kindness. He built the £6,000 bathroom for free, persuaded local suppliers to donate materials, and completed the project within a week. Source: The Independent Newspaper.

The benefits of kindness

Kindness has the potential to: 

  • give the joy and satisfaction of benefiting others, whether near or far
  • nourish and deepen the relationships we all depend on for our health and happiness
  • promote harmony and goodwill, at every level of society

A 16 Guidelines view on kindness

Kindness says: “I want you to be happy.” To be kind means to be friendly, caring, generous, benevolent, considerate, respectful, fair and affectionate. We all know in our hearts when we have received or offered kindness because of the warm feeling it brings. Is there anyone who does not want to experience kindness from another person?

Kindness knows with exquisite wisdom when it is appropriate to say or do something. It is found in the small details. A gentle touch on the cheek or a soft support of the elbow guiding someone across the road. Sustaining eye contact for just that moment longer. Making a telephone call. Remembering the little things that please someone.

If we act in a kind way, it may seem that we are putting someone else’s happiness ahead of ours, but in practice it doesn’t work that way. Being kind invariably feels good, lifts our own spirits, and nourishes us in ways that we don’t always acknowledge. Everyone benefits.

Is it possible to imagine a world in which everyone shows kindness to each other? Is kindness something we can learn? What can we do to become more kind?

16 Guidelines resources and training for developing kindness

Did you know?

Research suggests acts of kindness can conceivably boost happiness in a variety of ways: a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation; more confidence, efficient: and optimism. Furthermore, acts of kindness can inspire greater liking by others, as well as appreciation, gratitude, and prosocial reciprocity all of which are valuable in times of stress and need. 

A single act of kindness can influence dozens more - generosity really is contagious, according to researchers at the University of California.

Source:

Kennon M. Sheldon & Sonja Lyubomirsky: Achieving sustainable new happiness: Prospects, practices, and prescriptions. In A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive psychology in practice (pp. 127-145).Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2004.

Fowler, J.; Christakis, N.: Cooperative behavior cascades in human social networks, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 107 No. 10, March 9, 2010..

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MOTHER TERESA: A ROLE MODEL FOR KINDNESS

The poverty of the West is loneliness and indifference. There is hunger for ordinary bread, and there is hunger for love, for kindness and for thoughtfulness – and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer so much” said Mother Teresa, the Albanian nun awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for a lifetime of working with destitute people in Calcutta. 

What is perhaps most inspiring about Mother Teresa was her capacity to bring kindness and love into daily life. “I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love,” she said. Many people approached her to find out how they could also be more kind and loving in their own lives, and her advice was often surprisingly practical and down to earth. “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one” she said to one man. To another, who came asking what he could do for world peace, she simply responded “Go home and love your family”. 

For more on Mother Teresa, see:

  1. www.motherteresa.org, the official website of the Missionaries of Charity
  2. Mother Teresa: A Complete Authorized Biography by Kathryn Spink (London, Element Books, 1998)
  3. Mother Teresa, A Life of Devotion, 1989, released on VHS by Vision Video in 1999

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A short reflection on kindness from '16 Guidelines: The Basics' book

Find a quiet space where you can relax. Sit comfortably. To help you settle, focus your awareness on your breathing. Let go of any thoughts, images or feelings that arise. Whenever you become distracted, bring your awareness gently back to the sensation of the breath going in and out. Spend a few minutes enjoying the experience of coming to rest. 

Begin by generating a feeling of love and compassion towards yourself. “May I be free of suffering.” Repeat these kind words over and over to yourself, either as a whisper or in silence. “May I be free of suffering.”

Recall the times when you have suffered in the past. Look at the ways that you are suffering at the moment. Whatever arises in your mind, gently respond with love and compassion. Continue to repeat “May I be free of suffering.” Be very patient and soft towards yourself.

Next, extend your love and compassion to the people or animals who you feel close to. Imagine compassion radiating out from your heart and gently washing away all their anxieties and difficulties, their suffering and pain. “May they be free of suffering.”

Extend your circle of love and compassion to include people and beings whom you have never met. You can focus on people in particular parts of the world or on those experiencing specific problems such as ill health or poverty or injustice. Or you can just think about all the people you don’t know in your town or your country. Extend your love and compassion to every one of them without exception. “May they be free of suffering.”

Next, extend your love and compassion to the people whom you find challenging. Imagine them standing right here in front of you, and allow loving compassion to radiate out from your heart and gently wash away all their difficulties. “May you be free of suffering.”

Finally, imagine love and compassion spilling effortlessly out of your heart to embrace every living being in existence. Repeat gently “May all beings be free from suffering.” Imagine these words radiating throughout the universe, vast and limitless. How does this make you feel? 

Close with the wish “May all beings be happy!”

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Quotes on kindness

  • Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. - Plato
  • It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. - Source Unknown
  • Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness. - Seneca
  • Whenever possible, be kind. It is always possible. – The Dalai Lama
  • No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. - Aesop
  • Be kind to unkind people: they need it the most. – Source unknown
  • 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, USA
  • The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer someone else up. - Mark Twain
  • What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness? – Jean Jacques Rousseau
  • In taking good care of yourself, you can take good care of your beloved one. Self-love is the foundation for your capacity to love the other person. If you don’t take good care of yourself, if you are not happy, ifyou are not peaceful, you cannot make the other person happy. - Thi?chNhatHanh
  • Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.—Henry James
  • A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. – Amelia Earhart
  • To ease another's heartache is to forget one's own. – Abraham Lincoln
  • You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. – Buddha

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