Before we get started talking about kindness, maybe we should agree on exactly what kindness is.

One definition of kindness I found online defines kindness as this: The quality of being friendly, generous and considerate—doing voluntary, intentional acts that benefit another.

Let’s go with that definition, while I write about the actual meaning of kindness according to me.

As near as I can tell, there seem to be some universal truths associated with kindness. Here are some, based on my own experience and observation.

I hope I don’t come across as preachy. 

First of all, acts of kindness are humanizing; they give another person the validation they are worthy of at least some positive regard, that they are worth someone else’s time or effort, and that someone cares.

Every act of genuine kindness is also an act that comes with rewards, including the satisfaction that comes with knowing you’ve helped make someone’s life at least temporarily better. To the giver, an act of genuine kindness may be a little thing on their part, but to the receiver it can make a real difference in their life.

One act of kindness may be enough to change a life.

Giving is its own reward and there is joy in giving.

Some of the best kindnesses are the ones that are unexpected and freely given.

The way I see things, if you have the ability to help, you have the responsibility to help—commit acts of kindness for no other reason than because you can. Do it unconditionally, and with no strings attached. Be kind just for the sake of being kind. No other reason or rationalization is necessary—just do it. Kindness is its own reward.

Let’s take it further. 

There is an endless number of reasons to be kind, and no good reasons not to. I think we should try to be kind even when it’s hard to be. I think of salesclerks and fast food workers who deal with difficult people and manage to stay calm and polite, for one example. That kindness can go far in disarming the situation and may force that customer to realize their own unnecessary unkindness and change course.

We’ve seen people in situations like that and maybe from the standpoint of both. Which would you rather be, the one who is being unfailingly kind and polite, or the jerk?

I think a good guideline is to do someone the kindness you want or need from other people.

And something I don’t think comes up often enough is allowing others to do us kindnesses, and be gracious and humble about accepting that person’s gift. If we turn down a kindness, we may think we are being considerate, not letting someone go out of their way for us. In actuality, refusing to let someone do a kindness isn’t necessarily saving them anything; it may actually be taking away from that person experiencing the joy I mentioned above.

In the case of caregivers, letting the one whose care you are in charge of, do something for you can go a long way
toward allowing that person to feel useful and empowered, that they do still matter and do have worth.

While kindness can give you a positive feeling and satisfaction about yourself, I don’t believe in bragging about a kindness the you’ve done. Acts of kindness should be done freely and unconditionally, with no strings attached and shouldn’t be done done with the intention to put somebody in debt to you.

And don’t hold a kindness you’ve done over another’s head. In my view, that tarnishes the act. A kind person doesn’t need recognition for their kindness. Kind people don’t have to tell other people they are kind. It’s a classic case of show, don’t tell.

If you want to be thought of as a kind person, be a genuinely kind person.

Kindness is self-perpetuating; kindness breeds more kindness. Kindness starts, for lack of a better term, a sort of chain reaction. Be kind to someone, that person may be motivated to spread that kindness, and so on. And it can come back to you eventually, in some manner, though we may not know it was due to some kindness we did initially that started the whole chain of kindness.

And it’s obvious: cruelty is the opposite of kindness. It’s degrading and dehumanizing, and like kindness , it spreads.

Which would you rather be?

Being kind costs nothing, and we are born with an endless, lifetime supply to spread around. Acts of kindness can take on a life of their own and live on well after we are gone from the earth. What better legacy can there be than kindness?

What kind of world do you want to live in?

What kind of world would we live in if everybody made kindness a daily goal?

You can do your part and start the ball rolling. That ball is in your court.

Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near  Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab and, also, welcomes reader comments. Email him at Read more articles by Isaac here;

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