Where does kindness come from?

Despite my radio silence on the blog, I am actively pursuing my internal call to write more in 2019. Too bad that much of said writing is taking place in either a journal or also-journal that happens to be the home of a short story in progress. I think. I wish.

After a conversation with a good friend this morning about the need for self-compassion and grace (both such traits I consider to be works-in-progress for me), I ruminated later on about the art of kindness and why in the world our species (for the most part) decided that kindness was an action that had value, that mattered. If we are to survive, isn’t kindness a weakness? Doesn’t a demonstration of care reveal a vulnerability that any and all should exploit in order to absorb our resources?

Disclaimer: I have done zero research and I hold no education/training in evolutionary biology. But, in a random Tuesday afternoon zoning-out moment, the concept of kindness baffled me. What is its purpose in our world? And why has it been easier for us to build a society that honors kindness to others but scoffs or even rejects kindness to oneself?

The first piece of the puzzle for me is: what exactly is kindness? If it’s about being friendly, why not just use the word friendly? If it’s about doing a good deed, why not describe it as such without creating another duplicative word?

According to some cursory internet searches (everyone’s favorite — headlines FTW!), kindness appears to have first surfaced around the 14th century as kyndness meaning “nation” and “produce, an increase.” Wait, what? Kindness has something to do with nation-building? Or making?

A second definition of kindness via an Internet search comes from the reputable (?) BibleStudyTools.Com where kindness is:

“An attribute of God and quality desirable but not consistently found in humans.”

If you continue reading the section outlining how kindness shows up in different biblical texts, you’ll see that the author argues that kindness does not come naturally; but, at the same time, there is no such thing as people being unkind (apparently, you were not trying to find a parking spot near Mad Hatter’s in Durham in which every open spot is treated as a challenge on “The Amazing Race”).

What do you think kindness is? Is it the same as grace? Does kindness matter? I feel like a definition of kindness must include the word authentic. I’ve certainly been on the giving and receiving end of inauthentic kindness. Even good deeds can have dual purposes (hello philanthropy!)

I’m not sure where I’m wanting this ramble to go, if anywhere. Don’t get me wrong: I love kindness. Harking back to the Old English definition of “produce, an increase”, kindness has the power to spread and grow. It produces a shift in understanding of the world and of the people within it. Kindness reminds us that beauty and love exist; that people do see us and acknowledge that we breathe the same air.

Kindness is earned by those who show it in daily practice. I would like to demonstrate kindness — to people I know and those I don’t. Sometimes, I feel that pull to be unkind: to cut someone short, to cut someone off. I have an inner meanie who broods and snaps to attention on the days where sleep was scarce or emotions are extra-heavy. And, the recipient for the brunt of that criticism: me.

Do you have an inner monster too? I think we all do. I think we can all be unkind. It’s a choice. Each moment offers one. Here’s to a 2019 full of more kindness, the kind that produces and prospers and leads to a nation of kind people.

Perhaps a tad ambitious. Is it 2020 yet?

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