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About Kindness

 

What is kindness?

It is doing something good for others without expecting any reward or payoff. It is also called altruism.

Why are we kind?

It is in our genes. Our fitness for survival  increased when we learnt to cooperate (work for others as well as selves). Our entire civilization and society work on mutual cooperation, they could collapse if this diminishes below a limit.

Is everyone kind?

Yes, it will be difficult to find someone who never does anything good for others. This is not to deny that sometimes we do exhibit inconsiderate or even cruel behaviour.. Almost all of us are sometimes kind and sometimes inconsiderate. There are no pure blacks or pure whites in the matter of kindness, we all are shades of gray. We may judge someone as kind or otherwise because we have had no opportunity to see the other side of that personality.

Can we increase kindness in society?

Most certainly, if we begin with ourselves! Our behaviour is always influenced by habits. We think and behave as we are habituated to. Self-interest is built into our genes to ensure survival, ( remember Darwin? ), it is always present in our sub-conscious. Through experience, we have also learnt that enlightened self-interest needs us to cooperate with others to ensure collective survival and prosperity. We can change our habit of acting always only in narrow self-interest, by doing frequent and deliberate small acts of kindness for those around us - even strangers. This teaches us to be constantly aware of others, and helps balance our vital self-interest with the common interest of our community or society.

How will increasing kindness help?

An act of kindness is likely to be repeated by the receiver soon in some form, and there is  generally a ripple effect that follows. When kindness in a community increases, cooperation increases and conflict decreases. Mutual trust increases, and "social capital" is created. The community can work more purposefully for common good so that everyone will be better off. One can easily understand and appreciate this point if one imagines being stranded on a lonely island with no other human being. A person in this predicament will miss all the cooperation and kindness from others which perhaps she used to take for granted. She may not survive alone for long.

Updated onSeptember 14, 2010

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