In celebration of Be Kind to Humankind week, I am delighted to share wisdom from the ages on the subject of kindness—a gentle quality that has powerful reverberations. Lebanese-American writer and poet Kahil Gibran said, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.” Kindness is a soft verb; one that must be activated to be effective. And when it’s activated, kindness creates ripple effects that reverberate in profound ways—both seen and invisible.
Kindness is paradoxical. It’s incredibly simple and yet many people don’t know how to “do” kindness properly. That’s because they mistakenly believe that kindness has a scorecard. However, the opposite is true because kindness does not require anything in return. When a person does something wishing for accolades or praise, then the good deed has strings attached. It’s not being done for the simple act of being kind. The kindness paradox continues because, when you truly do something kind without any expectations of self-enhancement, you actually enhance your health in the process. Some of the benefits include an elevation of mood, decrease in stress hormones, increase in feelings of connection, decrease in loneliness, and strengthening of relationships.
Kindness is a stealth endeavor. Because it can be expressed through thoughts, words, and actions, it is often invisible and anonymous. Kindness is also contagious. My friend and mentor, Dr. Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist, author, and professor of Ethical Leadership at the New York University Stern School of Business, had conducted experiments measuring the positive elevation that people experience when they witness a kind action. In one example, several friends witnessed one of their friends perform a spontaneous random act of kindness by shoveling snow for an older person. This single action generated elevation for all of the friends, a feeling which then radiated outward to Haidt’s entire classroom when this example was shared with them.
As we know from Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build Theory of Positive Emotions, positive emotions literally “open us up” to experience even more positive emotions, creating upward cycles of positivity. This notion of upward cycles was beautifully articulated by Laozi, attributed to be an older contemporary of Confucius, who lived in the 6th Century BCE. He said: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
Remember, kindness is not what you do, but who you are. So what are you waiting for? Be kind and let its healing impact infuse you and others with goodness and hope.
I’m sending you strength and love.
Soaringwords is the power to heal.