Why Be Kind?

Kindness is encouraged by every major religion, by leaders as diverse as the Dalai Lama to Richard Carlson, the popular author of the Don't Sweat the Small Stuff series.  These books are really about kindness.  I did an analysis of the 100 strategies listed in the first book of the Don't Sweat series.  85 of the 100 strategies listed related either to ways to be kind to yourself or others.  The title of the series is even the result of a kind act! 

Kindness leads to many of the virtues to which we value and desire.  The Talmud says "Deeds of kindness are equal in weight to all the commandments."  The Dalai Lama says that kindness is his religion.  Thaddeus Golas, the author of A Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment, comes closest to why I believe that kindness is important: "All your words and actions define the world you want to live in."  When we focus on kindness, our world becomes kinder; we become kinder.   Kindness can lead us wherever we want to go: to a happier life, to being more Christ-like, to enlightenment, to making a difference in this world, to raising loving and kind children.

The reasons for being kind are innumerable.  Here are just a few:

1.     Being kind feels good.  Doing something for someone else really does make us feel good.  Just as running releases endorphins, so does kindness.   Make someone smile and you'll feel better for having done so.

2.     God smiles on kindness.  Whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist, kindness is an important part of the exhortations of all these religions.  Both Buddha and Christ were kind and encouraged their followers to be likewise.

3.     Kindness broadens our perspective.  In order to be kind, we have to pay attention to what is happening around us.  As we notice more things and help others, we get a glimpse of other ways of looking at things.  A broader perspective helps us to keep things in context.

4.     Kindness softens our heart.  When we look for kind deeds, beauty, and the opportunity for kindness, we'll find that we are more compassionate and more tolerant.  As we practice empathy, it opens our heart to others.  

5.     Kindness brightens our world.  When we are kind to people, it makes them happy.  The more people who experience kindness from us, the more happy people will be in our lives.  When those around us are happier, our world becomes a brighter, lighter place to live.

6.     Kindness helps people feel respected and less alone.  By recognizing someone's need for help and acting on it in a compassionate manner, it makes the recipient feel valued.  It also makes the giver feel better about themselves and more connected.

7.     Kindness makes people want to be around us.  One of the most common responses to kindness is gratitude.  People appreciate what we've done for them.  Our kindness is very attractive, so they want to be around us and actually seek us out.  The Buddha lists this as one of the eleven impacts of lovingkindness, but he put it even more strongly, saying: "Lovingkindness will make people love you."

8.     Kindness bears wonderful fruit.  Kindness begets kindness, openness, health and reduces the effects of stress on our bodies and our hearts.   In many ways, kindness is like Liquid Plumber for the soul: it opens us up, clears out the dross, and dwells lightly in our hearts.

9.     Kindness begets kindness.  When you are kind to others, the impact of your action doesn't stop there.  Many times the recipient of your kindness and others who see or hear about your kindness are inspired to be kinder.  The ripples of kindness are truly endless.

10.  Your kids will learn from your example.  When you are kind to friends and acquaintances, your kids will be more likely to be kind as well.  People often treat their children with kindness, but can be short with a crazy driver, strangers, or others outside the family.  This can cause "us and them" thinking that devalues others as "less" than ourselves.  Kindness breeds tolerance and understanding.