I have been developing the idea of kindness for several decades but it has been these last few weeks that the various aspects of kindness has been the central issue of this blog. An idea which goes back to the Classic Greeks, Pay It Forward, which is presently a legal concept that permits a debt owed to me to be payed to some other party separate from me or even unknown to me. The idea is sometimes heard in the once popular phrase, “pass it on”, where a bit of knowledge or a physical object is passed on to another person after being partially used or just observed. The original title for this blog, back in 1994 when it was a printed as a paper magazine was Proba – Pass It On. There were valuable ideas printed one to a page so they could be Xeroxed and easily passed-on to another person. The key difference between the Pay It Forward and the concept of The Kindness Habit, that I have been developing, is that of consciously developing of a habit of kindness.
With Pay It Forward the transferring of personal debt owed to someone in the past being repaid to some recipient in the future and it is intended to be a one time event. After the transaction is completed the debt is considered paid in full. Emerson is clear on this economic transaction aspect when he writes, “In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.” There isn’t a whiff of gift or kindness in this transaction, rather it is a debt being paid in kind - cent paid for cent owed.
The Kindness Habit doesn’t presume any debt being owed to the recipient of the gift of the kindness, nor does the kindness given require or even expect a return of any kind. These kind acts are not economic transactions, there is no tit for tat. There is however the hope that the kindness will impact the recipient in a positive way and make their life better in some perceptible way. The gift is intended to be so tiny it doesn’t even require an acknowledgement “Thank You,” but it is large enough to enter ones perceptual consciousness. It is the mental thought processes of giving of a kindness to another person and the corresponding thoughts of receiving a gift from another person which are the goals.
Giving of even a tiny gift creates a brief moment of companionship and trust between the two people. In the mind of the recipient it gives the acknowledgement that they exist and that they are valuable enough to be given a gift. For the giver of the kindness it creates the habit of sharing what one possesses, and is in control of, with another person, even a person totally unknown to them. As one gives a kindness, even a programmed and stylized and economically valueless gift, it becomes easier to give another kindness, and another, onward and without end. And a bit later comes the, perhaps unexpected, payment to the giver of the kindness.
As we develop the habit of kindness toward other people, even to people we are normally unaware of we also develop the habit of being kind to ourselves. Our personality is made up of a myriad of sub-selves and each of these selves has habits for relating to other people and to our other selves. When we get into the habit of giving other people what they need, we develop the habit of giving, and our various inner selves get what they need. We live within our own skins and we relate to our own selfs more than to all of the rest of the people in the world combined, so when we develop the habit of being kind to other people, some of the time, we end up being kind to ourselves, all of the time. Our personal world becomes happier around us because we have helped those around us to be happier, and we have helped our self be happier because we have learned to treat our self better by learning to treat others better.
Everyone benefits by our conscious acts of kindness and we benefit from our habitual acts of kindness.