Kindness is a much more difficult attribute to cultivate than being nice. Being nice just requires smiling and not doing offensive things. Kindness requires several more difficult things, each of which requires some advanced human personality development. To begin with, there needs to be a desire on the part of the potentially kind person for the general betterment of humanity and especially for the betterment of persons whom they encounter. This quality of caring isn’t always available even to a warm-hearted person, and even major moral philosophers like Adam Smith consider much of human interaction to be strictly self-serving. Smith even made a strong argument that personal economic selfishness benefits all humanity in general.
Another aspect of kindness is that it seems to go directly against Darwinian survival of the individual who might be attempting to be kind to another person. Kindness seems to involve giving away his valuable personal resources and that would seem to help the recipient more than the giver and that would be a loss for the giver in that it would make him less genetically fit. And also it would make the person to whom he gave the gift better able to cope with their shared environment. Our giver seems to have two strikes against him, a double loss, a loss to himself and a gain to his competitor.
Kindness isn’t about giving away one’s personal wealth; it’s about helping the other person to live more vigorously the life they have chosen for themselves. Kindness helps the other person to find their way on their own path. And that brings us to another quality which is needed for giving a kindness: you must be able to empathize with the other person’s life well enough to know what they are trying to do and furthermore to see what is impeding them. That requires some maturity of personal being which is only available from personal experience with other people. It is a natural ability built into human beings’ genetic code, like the ability for language acquisition, but it needs to be exposed to situations where it can develop, just like a person must be exposed to a language to learn it. People must be exposed to kind people doing kind acts to be able to learn how to be kind. This isn’t easy to identify, because most people are nice rather than kind, so you must have a clue as to what kindness is so you can watch for it and emulate it. Kindness can be learned by observation just like etiquette and social graces can be learned, but it requires a willingness to participate in these activities. It is easy to avoid being kind and especially easy for those people who believe kindness is a form of weakness.
Kindness is a form of strength and perhaps it is the greatest of human strengths because it increases the totality of human achievement of our species-wide goal of health and happiness. What is often thought of as power and strength, especially as manifest in various forms of human combat, decreases the totality of human health and happiness and thus weakens humanity. Thus manifesting strength and power weakens humanity but kindness strengthens humanity.
When we are talking to another person there is a tendency to say, “Yes – But!” That is agreeing with some part of what the other person is saying, but contesting a portion. The under-goal is to prove they are wrong in some way. Of course I am as guilty of this as are others, but what we might consider doing is what improvisational comics do, and that is to say, “Yes – And!” with the intent of accepting what they like about the previous statement and building upon it, rather than finding fault with it and tearing it down. Comics do this “Yes – And!” to find the borders of absurdity and find humor there in the bizarre, but we kindness seekers can use this technique to carry our interlocutor’s idea further and thus to help them explore further the directions they are already pursuing. They can find better ways forward in their world, because they understand it, and we can help them in their journey along their path for a way into their lands which we ordinarily wouldn’t be going. Thus we both gain and the world of all humanity gains too because what humanity is has just been expanded by our journey.
“How can I help this person in front of me live their life as they want to?”