St Andrews Counselling & Psychotherapy
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|Posted on 15 September, 2013 at 14:24|
Maybe it's me but I have recently spent a little time reflecting on the word "kindness".
My initial thoughts are around the word kindness as being nebulous, vague and an apology for politeness.
Am I alone in thinking this?
Interestingly the word keeps pricking my mind now and then asking me to pay more attention to understanding what does kindness actually mean?
When I am uncertain over meanings I go to the Oxford Dictionary to get a definition:
"noun [mass noun]
Margot Silk Forrest (2003) shifts from definitions and pins down "kindness":
"Kindness is the wise use of the heart. A purely heartfelt action won't necessary be a kind one -- it could be misguided or uninformed. It takes wisdom and heart to notice when someone needs our help and to see what kind of help they need. That word "use" is important, too. Kindness isn't kindness if it is not put to use. Action is required. Thinking kind thoughts is all well and good. It will calm and purify your mind stream. But at some point, we have to get up and act on our kind intentions."
So kindness is not just about sentiment, wishing someone well or merely feeling emotionally impacted on. There is an observational aspect, to notice when someone needs our help and not just to see what help they need, but to take action. Firstly to ask how they are and the use of empathy to feel what it might be like to experience their situation. To then act upon, not just to offer but to actually do something to help and support the other. Kindness may be a practical act such as helping them with a lift, a meal, childcare, or a visit. There is also a warmth in an act of kindness, a reaching out to another, a generosity of time, company and friendship.
There is also consideration of how your kindness may impact on the other person, there's a balance here not to overwhelm or "rescue" by doing what they can do for themselves.
So how can kindness help the giver?
Being kind to someone else may be seen as an act of love which when given benefits not only the recipient but the giver as well.
Being kind has a great "feel good" factor, and when we feel good we flood our brain with dopamine, the feel good hormone which lifts our mood.
Kindness is not just about a one to one activity, we can offer kindness to our community when we volunteer our time and skills for free to benefit others, some of whom may be known and unknown to us. So kindness has an altruistic component.
Imagine if everyone offered and delivered an act of kindness to someone who needed this badly, what impact do you think this would have at an individual, family, community, locality, country and worldwide level?