The quest of otherworldly rapture, or in the search of peace, the term kindness is often thrusted into the mainstream throughout the years. Since childhood, adolescents are told by their elders to act kind and behave kind, typically meaning to give politeness in order to receive it. However, the word contains a deeper meaning that has lost its value over time. Kindness, in particular, is a term that could hold different meanings for different individuals based on the circumstances and environments that they grow in. Kindness, the word translates to “the quality or state of being kind” in Merriam-Webster, though the brief definition gives rise to the question of what exactly is defined as kind. Kindness is characterized as a virtue that is vital to identify pleasure and altruism among oneself and others. It is an essential aspect of humanity and holds significance in a diversity of cultures and religions around the globe.
In the current age-of-rage, human nature is detrimental to the atmosphere and humaneness is often overlooked, however, the littlest of goodness still resides within the human species. The goodness that is also synonymous with the significant terms such as kindness, or compassion, benevolence, forbearance, altruism, generosity, amity, empathy, and hospitality, revives the sentiment of optimism. It evokes a sense of togetherness and contentment to acquire the ability to perceive the world through other’s perspective and unfold the definition of personal happiness. In the contemporary world, kindness is one of the fruits of Spirit that classifies an individual as a human being. The utmost teachings of diverse religions encourage compassion and empathy as the fundamental step to acquire spiritual and emotional well-being.
A snippet from Paul the Apostle’s description of life recorded in Second Corinthians, validates the authenticity of a devout being and advocates the concept of hospitality among mankind, “but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, hunger; by purity knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God” (Paul).
Steve Sjogren, the founding father of Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio is an all-rounded speaker and the author of “Changing the World Through Kindness.” In his book, Sjogren describes his own definition of kindness as the practical deeds of mercy adept by Jesus’ disciples who are inspired by the Holy Spirit and perceive individuals through God’s eyes. He quotes from the Webster’s Dictionary that further connotes kindness to “having a sympathetic, helpful . . . forbearing nature.” Forbearance, a substitute for kindness, implies the human capacity to behold and cherish others in the way God does. Sjogren regards kindness to be one of the divine attributes of God that reflects only in his devout soul (Sjogren, 72).
Kindness is said to be a universal language, as Mark Twain claims it to be a language that a deaf can hear and blind can see, it can overcome any barriers. Humans have been evolved with common tendencies towards emotions, behaviors and feelings of both optimism and pessimism. However, the ultimate emotions of optimism, such as reverence, patience, consideration, compassion, generosity, goodwill, grace, benevolence, amity, altruism, happiness and kindness, are dynamic and natural. Those emotions nurture and mature a human into a compassionate and virtuous being. David Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and the author of the book “Born to be Good,” demonstrates his study of physiology and claims that the remarkable emotions of optimism or pessimism, help the various systems throughout the body. The study further refers to other medical professionals to validate his scientific approach to altruism. He explains that the vagal nerve present in the nervous system is the stimulant of altruistic and euphoric feelings.
The said nerve is generally recognized as the significant organ that regulates various bodily functions. Dr. Stephen Porges, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, acknowledges vagal nerve as the care taking organ in the body. It boosts the release of oxytocin and cultivate the emotions of compassion, happiness, gratitude, and love. Scientific researches show that the emotions such as compassion, humanity and benevolence are an epitome of a happy and healthy lifestyle. Nancy Eisenberg, a regent professor in the department of Psychology at the Arizona State University, discloses that the children with higher vagal tone tend to possess empathetic behavior. Keltner takes inspiration from Charles Darwin’s understanding of human goodness and discusses his scientific conclusion that vagal tone is an essential organ that regulates various systems related to emotional well-being, including the sentiments of compassion, kindness, humanity, love and warmth, and that such emotions are instinctual and hold a special value within the depth of human nature (Keltner).
Although, there are many contrary definitions and explanations of the term, kindness, interpreted by various scholars and experts in the dictionaries, it possesses a constant value in the religious or cultural beliefs. Rather than classifying a human being as one of the certain religions, or culture, kindness is a behavior that is practiced and taught in almost every religion. Kindness connotes the tie that binds humanity together. It is a connection between mankind and other species. Kindness is politeness offered but not in advantage of oneself but of others (Aristotle). The kindness that is manifested by each religion is practiced regularly, the world is likely to experience peace.