Kindness is a topic with people in distinct camps.
Some are enthusiastic about it, whilst others are wary of it. Some believe that it is our duty and that we should do it regardless of rewards or benefits, whilst others believe that it should be strictly on a transactional basis.
There are even some who believe that those who claim to be genuinely altruistic are actually sneaky and manipulative. However, the undeniable fact is that we must be kind to each other if we plan on living good lives.
Bedouins have an ancient saying which goes:
I, against my brother. I, and my brothers against my cousins. I, my brothers, and my cousins against the world...
When you drill down to the core of our beings, you would find that we are like every other living thing. We just want to run to pleasure and avoid pain. We just want to live. This desire for a good life is what often drives people to be selfish – they want something nice for themselves.
However, human societies are built in such a way that no one can stand alone.
You may be able to bully your brother and get to keep their food for yourself, but if some other groups of people come for the food that you and your brother were competing for, it would serve you best to be kind to your brother and agree to share.
So you can team up and defeat the common enemy. This is basically how humans function. It is ingrained deep into us.
Humans, over years of evolution, have learned to be kind to one another – especially when it is beneficial. It is perhaps the reason cooperating/interacting with others activates an area of our brains called the striatum. This is usually activated when we are rewarded.
That is to say, your mind considers kindness as essential as food. It is the reason we are called social animals. And it is a good thing.
The benefits of kindness are greatly understated. It is greatly beneficial to anyone who practices it – no matter their reason – because being kind can:
When you express kindness to someone, they are naturally inclined to be happy about it, and express it through smiles, thanks, and praises.
Interestingly, neuroscience has pointed out that seeing someone else express their emotions activates the same areas of our brains responsible for the emotion we are observing. This is also known as mirroring.
That is to say, when you see someone sad, angry, excited, or happy, it makes you feel those emotions too. Consequently, people who are generally kind, and have people happy around them, end up leading happy lives. It’s as simple as reaping what you sow.
When a warm feeling is established between two people, more and more oxytocin gets released into the bloodstream, which then triggers the release of nitric oxides into the blood vessels, resulting in the dilation of the blood vessels.
The result of all these is that the simple act of kindness literally reduces your blood pressure – after a series of domino effects. In fact, oxytocin is considered a “cardioprotective” hormone, which means it serves to protect the heart.
That aside, being kind also helps you shift your focus to others – rather than ruminating on your own woes – thereby relieving your stress and anxiety.
People like being around people who make them feel good about themselves.
They like doing business with those they can trust. They can sacrifice for those they know care for and about them. And they would gladly introduce someone they like to their friends and family.
If you, through acts of kindness, get people to like and trust you, it exponentially improves your chances of meeting more people and you are given more opportunities in life. In the end, the sacrifices you make get paid ten fold.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. When we take the route of kindness, rather than anger, selfishness, or hate, we create room for forgiveness and repentance.
When you are kind to someone who is mean to you, it makes them reconsider their actions, and hopefully change their ways. Sometimes, it may just save you the headache of fighting someone who doesn’t give a damn – who is ready to shipwreck everything, and everyone, including themselves.
In the end, kindness brings about better results.
Most times, acts of kindness inspire people to spread kindness.
The kindness you give may be all that a person needs to keep going. The result is that you create a more prosperous, yet peaceful, and loving world by simply carrying out random acts of kindness.
As mentioned earlier, kindness has an evolutionary background, and as with every other evolutionary trait, we are not all equally kind.
Our extent of kindness – or empathy – varies from person to person, pretty much how our ability to develop muscles differs. But the thing is, we all have some muscles and can work out to develop the little we have, so also we can cultivate the habit of being kind.
Being kind isn’t that complicated if you really think about it.
It is often just about thinking about how your actions affect others and then deciding to either carry out the action or avoid it. This could mean sharing something, giving someone an opportunity, etc., or not taking something from someone, not talking down on someone, and so on.
Kindness is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and thinking about what you would have done if it were you, who was them.