Kindness in words creates confidence.
Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.
Kindness in giving creates love.
(Lao Tzu)

IF THERE IS A GIFT THAT PEOPLE ENJOY RECEIVING ANY MORE THAN KINDNESS, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS. Anytime another person deals kindly with us, we like that experience very much.

Unfortunately, when we experience the opposite behavior and are treated unkindly, we tend to remember that longer. Grudges seem to stick in our minds more than gratitude does. But shouldn’t we rather “write injuries in sand and kindnesses in marble” (French proverb)?

I think most people would agree that appreciation for kindness grows as we mature. We can relate to the sentiment of Abraham Joshua Heschel, who said, “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” Perhaps this is true because we need acts of kindness more when we’re old than when we’re young. But as we age, our value system changes as well as our needs. While we’re young, our attention is captured by treasures that sparkle outwardly. It is only when the shine has worn off of these things that we learn to appreciate the more homely virtues like kindness.

As the quotation from Lao Tzu indicates, there are many different species of kindness. In addition to kind words, there are kind deeds, kind gestures, kind gifts, and many others. But what about kindness in thinking? You may not have tried to keep your thinking kind, but that’s the root of the matter. Most of the time, what we do outwardly is simply the overflow of what is in our hearts. So if kind behavior is our goal, then we need to make kind thinking a habit.

Most ordinary people have the impulse to be kind, at least occasionally. But too few of us act on that impulse. Busy to the point of distraction, we slip into the practice of postponing acts of kindness. But while having kind intentions is certainly better than not having them, the intentions themselves do little good if they are not acted upon, at least as far as the recipient is concerned. Let’s not pile up regrets in our lives by failing to be kind when we have the opportunity.

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Gary Henry — +

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