Kindness 2013: beginning with small steps

I posted last week about making 2013 the year of kindness. And I have been absolutely humbled by the wonderful response. Thank you!

MJWright2011Along the way, someone pointed out, on Twitter, that kindness is a good idea – but human nature will prevent it working. And, alas, and alack, that’s quite true. History is littered with efforts to be kind which founder on the usual culprits – jealousies, greed, ego, assertions of ‘us’ over ‘them’. Human nature is multi-faceted, complex, and largely split between altruism and self interest, both personally and in terms of the groups we identify ourselves as belonging to.  Kindness exists, but it is inevitably counter-balanced with unkindness along the way. And often, alas, it is the unkindness that wins.

Why? Because unkindness often appears to be the easier course, and – unfortunately – also the more rewarding for some people. I’ll explain more about that later. But as a historian, science geek, anthropologist and general cynic I agree that we can’t eliminate the darker side of the human condition.

But we can, I think, make kindness the side that wins more often than not. If enough of us try. What’s more, I think that as the world gets more crowded, more intrusive, less private and faster, the onus is on us to make sure we do. Otherwise we risk ending up fighting over the wreckage. It’s happened before.

The thing is that, at the end of the day, kindness is rewarding; acts of kindness make the recipient feel good. It makes you feel good, for doing it. It’s also easy. Kindness starts in small ways. It can be as simple as holding a door for a stranger. Or helping someone cross the road. It can be as simple as a genuine smile. Being nice costs nothing, and gives so much

What do you figure? I’d love to hear from you on this one.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013

This series continues next week. Later this week: ‘So you want to be a writer?’ First of a series on the A-Z of the art. Check it out. Then: ‘ Inspirations. Dreams stay with you in a big country.’ And more.

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10 comments on “Kindness 2013: beginning with small steps

  1. “Kindness starts in small ways.” Well said!
    Every day, I walk a mile from the train station to my office building. Since it is rush hour, I walk past several hundred people twice a day. Most of them have there heads down looking at the floor in front of them or looking at their iPhones. If they do make eye contact, it’s only for an instant. So, a few months ago I started an experiment. I tried to smile at anyone who met my eyes. It was interesting to see how many people returned my smile. Certainly, not everyone did, but 25 to 30 percent did. I started to feel better inside and I hope they did too. Now it’s a game for me to try and get certain people I meet everyday to smile back at me.

    • Sounds good! Funnily enough; today, in a busy Wellington city street, someone smiled at me. And I was thinking ‘who are they? Am I meant to know them?’ But of course I didn’t. They were just being nice. It’s a good feeling.

  2. Karen Rought says:

    The wonderful thing about kindness is that it easily becomes habitual. Once you consciously decide to put others before you, you don’t even think about doing it anymore. It becomes second nature. Even better than that is that kindness is often contagious. If you can put someone in a good mood by doing even a small act for them, more than likely they’ll turn right around and continue the gesture. It’s a beautiful thing to watch unfold.

  3. B. M. Wells says:

    “What’s more, I think that as the world gets more crowded, more intrusive, less private and faster, the onus is on us to make sure we do. Otherwise we risk ending up fighting over the wreckage.”

    Agreement all around. Further, we have an unprecedented ability today to share and exchange thoughts and ideas via the Internet. It’s fast, it’s relatively cheap, and it’s inching toward ubiquity. Sharing kind acts can provide positive reinforcement and and inspire more acts of kindness, perhaps tipping the balance slightly in favor of more kindness than not.

    It may take people some more time for people to trust the “well-intentioned ones” on the web, but I think we’re getting there. I recently observed on Facebook a chain email-like status update movement:

    “2013 Creative Pay-It-Forward: The first five people to comment on this status will receive from me, sometime in the next calendar year, a gift – perhaps a book, a drawing, or music – a surprise! There will likely be no warning and it will happen whenever the mood strikes me. The catch? Those five people must make the same offer in their FB status.”

    How effective this can be, remains to be seen.

  4. That is one thing I have really tried to grasp hold of – the kindness factor. It’s so ingrained in our culture now that “nice guys finish last” and a woman being rude and obnoxious is just her being “sassy.” It makes me feel physically wrong to be mean. The things I hear and see people do to others still astonishes me. I can’t imagine treating someone else that way without feeling guilty.

    • You’re right, and it’s sad the way our society has somehow managed to re-define normality in terms that lead us away from kindness; these days it’s viewed, I fear, as weakness. An unfortunate re-definition; but hopefully, if enough of us do it, we can re-define things back the other way again.

  5. KM Huber says:

    Another fine and thoughtful post, Matthew. Had lunch with a couple friends today and after reading your post it seems we were discussing kindness, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time. My point is there does seem to be a sense among many people that we need to find a way to get along with one another, and if nothing else, we can smile at one another. Who knows what that may start…..

    Karen

    • I agree. And kindness, to me, means a lot more than just ‘kindness’ alone – it should become a philosophy and way of life that encompasses being thoughtful, tolerant, reasonable and a whole raft of similar matters. And I am sure it is, broadly, for most of us – the problem is, I fear, that our various societies seem to occasionally forget the point… I’ve got a post lined up for next week detailing this a little more.

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