Why is kindness important?
Sometimes it’s easiest to see whether something is important if we consider what it’s like when it isn’t around. (“We don’t know what we’ve got til it’s gone”). So what's life like without kindness?
Words used to define unkindness include harshness, lacking consideration, cruelty, meanness, hurtfulness, disparagement, disrespect, abuse.
We get the idea! Unkindness is stressful to be around, and likely to cause distress - pain, suffering, unhappiness, a sense of rejection. And when unkindness is inflicted on us we are likely to feel hurt, inadequate, not good enough, isolated from others.
If we look at the news and ask whether each news item reflects kindness or unkindness, we can easily see the damage that is caused by unkindness. Unkindness is seen in neglectful and actively harmful attitudes and acts - harsh treatment of people we differ from or disagree with, cruelty to animals, damage to the living environment, acts of aggression, violence, terror and war, ignoring or rejecting people’s cries for help, grasping and greed, corruption and dishonesty, and so on.
It’s pretty clear that without kindness humanity can become ever more destructive and cause ever more devastation. It’s a bleak picture.
In contrast, kindness can be seen when people - individuals and groups - reach out to help others. It can be seen in tender care for the elderly and very young, in support given to parents who are struggling, in providing comfort for people in distress. It's there when people fundraise and provide practical help, when they step up in emergencies, when we provide decent housing and health care and access to resources for all people, when we respect ourselves and others.
It also provides fuel for creativity. Who would have thought that rats could be trained (kindly) to sniff out landmines or tuberculosis and save thousands of people from injury and death or undiagnosed illness. But yes, it’s true (https:// www.apopo.org/en/). A man whose (Buddhist) practice involves loving kindness/ compassionate awareness came up with this idea.
Kindness is part of basic decency towards each other. It brings warmth, respect, caring, thoughtfulness, a preparedness to help, to give, and to receive. It provides a sense of safety, of mutual support. These are the conditions that allow us to grow and develop physically, emotionally and intellectually. They are the conditions in which strong social networks develop. And where there is the mutual respect of kindness, societies are able to function more effectively and to prosper.
They are less divided, less liable to aggression and disintegration. Not so bleak.
So, would you argue against the importance of kindness?