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Kindness – have we lost the knack?

Updated on March 27, 2011

Why kindness?

"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple: the philosophy is kindness." - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

"For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me into your house. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you went to see me ... Truly, I say to you; whenever you did this to one of the least, to my brothers, you did it to me." - Jesus of Nazareth.

"Let the good which ye bestow be for parents, and kindred, and orphans, and the poor, and the wayfarer; and whatever good ye do, of a truth God knoweth." - Mohammad (PBUH)

What is kindness

Kindness: 1. the quality of being kind; 2. a kind act. (COED)

Kind: 1. friendly, considerate, and generous; 2. (archaic) loving, affectionate (COED)

In the hurry and bustle of life, when everyone is intent on getting to the goal, whatever that might be, first, we can easily be caught up in this roiling and lose sight of our own, and other's, real humanity.

We can often be so taken up in our own struggle to win, or at least to make some measure of progress, that we can forget what life really is about.

And sometimes our “insatiable greed and overweening ambition knows no bounds” (that quotation is from Bartolome de Las Casas (1474-1566), who used those words to describe the Spanish colonists in Haiti) and we treat other people as mere chattels, instead of recognising that each individual is an end in himself or herself, and is not an instrument to be used for the furtherance of another's ambition.

In a world of “insatiable greed and overweening ambition” the virtue of kindness is often derided, as Lady Macbeth derided it when she saw it in her husband: “Yet do I fear thy nature, /It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way..”

The “nearest way” of course was to kill Duncan in order to fulfil her ambition of being Queen to Macbeth's King.

Lady Macbeth with daggers, by Fuseli
Lady Macbeth with daggers, by Fuseli

Lady Macbeth was, of course, right to see kindness as standing in the way of her “overweening ambition.” If being kind is being, as the Concise Oxford English Dictionary says, being “friendly, considerate, and generous,” or, as the article “Kindness” in Wikipedia puts it: “the state of being kind and marked by charitable behaviour, marked by mild disposition, pleasantness, tenderness and concern for others,” these ways of being are completely contradictory to “overweening ambition.”

Or as that wonderfully cynical philosopher Nietzsche put it, love and kindness are the "most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse."

World Kindness Day

Too often, I think, kindness is seen as too “milky,” too soft for the “real” world, which means, of course, the world of competition and struggle. Kindness is often seen as weak, as soft, as unmanly.

Actually, though, to be kind is to take risks, to be vulnerable, to be open to others. And that takes real strength, real courage.

And perhaps that is why so many people don't want to be kind – they fear that if they are kind they will “lose” something, something will be taken away from them.

The truth, though, is that what one would gain from a simple act of kindness would far outweigh any potential losses that might result from it. Because, as is stated in the “Rational Code of Ethics” that fellow-Hubber Paraglider has proposed, “We are responsible first to each other and our future generations, then to all life on Earth.” Acting with kindness is recognising this responsibility, and doing something about it.

The final word about kindness that I want to stress is that kindness is not just a quality or attribute, it is an action, it is doing something to indicate and live out our care and concern for others, to show that we take the responsibility we have for each other seriously.

Kindness is acting with generosity of spirit rather than meanness of spirit, and can be anything from a simple smile, a word of encouragement to a sharing of burdens or a giving of real material support to another person who might be in need.

It is good, but not enough, to have kind thoughts. Those thoughts, to have real value, must be expressed in action.

Since 13 November is marked by some as World Kindness Day, let's all commit to doing an act of kindness on this day, an act which might not seem too great by itself, but when added to the kind actions of many others, it might make an impact, a positive impact for good on the society in which we live.

Copyright Notice

The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.

© Tony McGregor 2009


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    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      Jane - thanks for stopping by and for the very kind words. Much appreciated indeed!

      Love and peace


    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 

      7 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      Tony you are a great communicator and you've got this across so well.

      I've always valued kindness very highly. Above cleverness, beauty, power or many of those other attributes we humans aspire too. I don't think I'd like to live in a world without it.


    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Audrey - I so appreciate your kind words and the thoughtful comment. Thank you so much!

      I am better for knowing you also!

      Love and peace


    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      8 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      tony - every adult, young adult and child should read this hub.If mankind would only follow this inspiring article what a beautiful world we would live in. Kindness begins with me. It is an action with "thought" being the parent. Being kind is easy, effortless.

      I believe that practicing kindness is good for our health. I am now following you on twitter. You are one beautiful, kind, human being and I am a better person for having met you on hubpages Rated you up and beautiful, because you are!

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      MG - kindiness does matter indeed! Let's be kind to everyone! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Love and peace


    • Midtown Girl profile image

      Midtown Girl 

      8 years ago from Right where I want to be!

      Kindness does matter. May we all practice it regularly. Thank you for this reminder!

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      AuriFin - thanks for stopping by and commenting. I agree that children should learn early about kindness - and they will only learn about it by being treated kindly by us!

      Love and peace


    • AuriFin profile image


      8 years ago

      I didn't know there is a World Kindness day :)

      I wish to believe that every little person brought to the world can learn to feel the need to make good; and also that learning it can be at every age - so that there is a bigger chance for changing the world into a better place. Thank you so much for this shared lesson of kindness :)


    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Indeed we need to know more about him - or do we?

      Tnanks for coming back!

      Love and peace


    • jandee profile image


      8 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

      Have to write a hub 'man in the pink shirt'



    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Maxine - what a fantastic example of kindness which adds depth to the discussion! Thanks very much.

      I think I shall have to get me a pink shirt! LOL!

      Love and peace


    • jandee profile image


      8 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

      I was in Nantes. It was a very special day and we had driven for 3 hours . The event was to get my dogs confirmation which is an extremely complicated procedure in France. We had left early in the morning and both of us (Husband and I)were tetchy!We were hungry and in the middle of the country.Husband stopped car and jumped out indicating he was in in need of- sorry(whizz).I was mad cause he hadn't stopped when asked at a tabac we had passed and I will never forget the look on his face as he glanced back,from across the road,to see me and dog driving like mad away from him. I came to a motorway and thought 'I'll easy remember the way back' then I came to a supermarket where I stopped to get bagguettes and take them back to the dog venue. So far so good !That was when a saw the roundabout! okay! I knew the road only I didn't.Anybody who knows France also knows that many pretty villages are all very similiar and it was too hot now !my dog was panting with the heat! I was getting panicky !I got out and walked around for 15 minutes but it was 'siesta 'time and not a soul in sight.. Out of the hot lonliness appeared a young man in a pink shirt- will never forget him as the shirt was exactly like one my husband has-I waived him over from across the road and how lucky it was that he spoke good English and in fact 'cottened on' to my prediciment 'I cannot help you madame but my friend can' that second a big black renault pulled up and he communicated with his friend for a minute or two before indicating to me to return to my car and follow him. I drove behind him at speeds which now, thinking back, make me twitch!!I was a long way that I had wandered and I have no idea what would have happened if this Kindly Frenchman hadn't happened along not to mention his friend!I have had many experiences in france of their kindness and they are a truly kind and helpful people who certainly haven't lost the knack!! Oh dear! Poor Tony sorry for taking all this space ,keep well tony,m

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Epigramman - you are kindness itself! Thank you so much for the visit and the comment, both of which are muchly appreciated!

      Love and peace


    • epigramman profile image


      8 years ago

      well you certainly are leading the way for promoting kindness Sir - and you also have the knack for world class writing and forward thinking.

      editorial comment - and have we lost the knack?

      human kindness should be an internal and external reflex - you shouldn't have to teach the art or act of kindness - it just should come natural or it will not come natural at all!

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Christine - thanks so much for this comment and MFB's comment is indeed well taken! Money does seem to blind us in so many ways.

      Love and peace


    • mulberry1 profile image

      Christine Mulberry 

      8 years ago

      Love that you emphasized the need to act with kindness. I think so many believe in it in theory but fail to implement it! A good reminder to us all, every moment we have a choice to make, to act or react in a particular way. And I agree with MFB, money seems to have the power to really drive kindness right out the window for a lot of people.

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      MFB - thanks for your wonderfully thoughtful and insighful comment. Love the man-angst idea!

      Thanks again

      Love and peace


    • MFB III profile image

      MFB III 

      8 years ago from United States

      Mankind should perhaps be changed for a while, it is hard to apply kind to man in general, greed and power and my party wins and the hell with being fair and balanced if we lose, screw 31 million who have no insurance, let's use illegal immigrants to clean our houses, oick our produce, landscape our mansions, and do all the dirty nasty jobs no one wants for menial wages, but if they get sick....Let them eat toilet cake. It's a disinfectant, but we will not pay for thier care. they are illegal.Well so is using them to work for you, for crap wages...which is the bigger crime?? Mock a war vet and send him unjustly on a swift boat to hell, print bible verses on T-shirts that call for the death of our president, his family and all his generations to come, spout that it is wrong to feed those in need cause it only moves them to overpopulate and create more need. Build nursing homes and hospitals that make millions every year, but understaff them and neglect and make suffer all who have to heal there. It's a budget and when it comes to kindness versus money...they won't budge it. the list of reasons to rename mankind into

      man-angst is endless, I could be writing here for days, weeks, months but I will be kind and not join the ranks of all of those who constantly harass and defame, and seek to destroy any efforts at good. ~~~Loved this one....kind of you to post it...~~MFB III

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 

      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Oh ! if only. The world's gone mad. , but there's always hope when there are people like you to spread a little kindness. Most encouraging. Thank you.

    • lisadpreston profile image


      8 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      A great hub. We as a people have got to start caring about our fellow man and love one another. Acts of kindness are very rare anymore. What happend to the good ole days when people knew their neighbors and helped each other out? It seems that everyone is afraid of everyone else. I think kindness toward our fellow man would solve so much of todays problems. Thank you for bringing this subject to peoples attention.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great hub Tony. Truth is that kindness should be natural, but it isn't for most. Life has a way of biting and we tend to bite others in return. It is a learned behavior and needs to be taught by someone who is truly kind.

    • tobey100 profile image


      8 years ago from Whites Creek, Tennessee

      Exceptional. Amen and thank you

    • godpreacher profile image


      8 years ago from Atlanta,Ga.


      Great hub.

      kindness towards one another allows the world to see God in us. let it begin with me, luv ya.

    • TrudyVan profile image

      TrudyVan Curre 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Hello there TonyMac, Seasons Greeting to You May Your 2010 be better than ever before.

    • Happyontheinside profile image


      8 years ago from Scotland

      I wish more people saw the world the same way you do.

    • SXP profile image


      8 years ago from South Africa

      Only once a person sees himself in the way he was intended by God, then you can start to act accordingly and show love and kindness. Kindness and love can only come from those who truly have this in their hearts and are happy with themselves.

    • myownworld profile image


      8 years ago from uk

      Such wonderful thoughts...loved every word of this! if only the world had more people like you...! thank you for sharing this...

    • amillar profile image


      8 years ago from Scotland, UK

      Excellent hub Tony. When I read this, it reminded me of Sir Paul McCartney, after his first wife Linda died of cancer. A TV interviewer asked him what he liked most about his wife, and after a second of wistful consideration, he said, “She was very kind”. I thought at the time, regardless who we are, or what we’ve achieved, these things matter most.

    • green tea-cher profile image

      green tea-cher 

      8 years ago

      great hub! I agree that too often in our attempt to climb the ladder of success, we are so caught up in the climb that we do not pay attention to who we step on to get there. I read a great quote today from Anthony Robbins that reads "if you make it to the top (of the mountain) by yourself you'll probably jump off." What is success if it can't be shared?

      Thanks again for great thinking material.

    • advoco profile image


      9 years ago from cadiz

      I agree with the sentiments but fear that politeness, moderation and kindness are all in retreat and in part it's because of the internet. In my estimation only about 10-15% take the trouble to say "thanks" for anything online. On that subject - Tony, thanks for an original and thought-provoking hub.

    • lelanew55 profile image


      9 years ago

      Hello Tony, Good hub. It is a good reminder. we all forget to do the simple kind things for each other such as letting someone go ahead of us in a line if they seem rushed, not rushing past someone who look like they could use our help, or even letting a complete stranger take shelter under our umbrella when it is pouring down like one lady did for me recently. These simple acts can uplift a person a little. Kindness is also accepting people as they are.

    • Putz Ballard profile image

      Putz Ballard 

      9 years ago

      Great hub and it doesn't cost anything to be kind.

    • enlightenedpsych2 profile image


      9 years ago from n.e. portion of U.S. on Planet earth

      Well said and lest not forget that if we cannot be kind to ourselves first it is far more challenging to render acts of kindness upon someone else. We are unfamiliar with which we seek the most admiration for . . . a quality in someone

      thanks for sharing,

      miss erica hidvegi

      the Enlightenment Advisor

    • kartika damon profile image

      kartika damon 

      9 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

      Tony, this is so beautifully written! One of my favorite articles on hubpages ever. I believe like you do that kindness is the single most important action one can take in life, and has the most profound influence - kind acts have a ripple effect and are more powerful than we know. Peace and love!

      Artamia - I love this quote: "Listening with a genuine compassion is an act of Kindness." Vonnegut was a true genius!

      -- Kurt Vonnegut:

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      9 years ago from India

      Tony - what a wonderful hub! KIndness is in such short supply all over the world and it really is the oxygen we need to be human again!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Alright I'll let my hubby sleep in an extra hour before work tonight lol. Just joking.

      Yes although there are still many kind acts happening daily there are far too many hateful acts. It usually costs nothing to be thoughtful and kind.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Great comments! You are right Mr. Tony: "each moment is all we have in which to make either a positive or a negative contribution to life." That is a great burden though in light of what Kant had to say for we (the ones with "clay feet") have to constantly "double-check" what we are doing; we must "think" before each and every action and frankly speaking "thinking" is not the "popular" thing to do. Education would help.

    • BeatsMe profile image


      9 years ago

      Being kind is quite relative, I think. Some days, it's easy to be kind, other days, it's not. And also, most people choose the people they want to be kind to.

    • Artamia profile image


      9 years ago from GTA, Canada

      RE: "Kindness is acting with generosity of spirit rather than meanness of spirit, and can be anything from a simple smile, a word of encouragement to a sharing of burdens or a giving of real material support to another person who might be in need.

      It is good, but not enough, to have kind thoughts. Those thoughts, to have real value, must be expressed in action."


      Hi, Tony!

      From my personal experience:



      KINDNESS MEANS WE DEEPLY CARE about a person or a cause.

      Being kind make you feel complete and happier... and tuned with the Universe.

      Genuine Kindness and Modesty -- words not in much respect in North America... (may sad observation...)

      Being kind is taking care of your Karma.

      A random act of Kindness to a stranger bring an inner smile in two people...

      Kindness is a sign of fine education started when a baby is able to hold a toy in his fragile hands... Kindness is a chain re-action.

      Listening with a genuine com-passion is an act of Kindness.

      -- Kurt Vonnegut:

      "YOU MUST BE KIND!" "Still and all, why bother? Here's my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about..." "We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap." "The year was 2081, and everyone was finally equal... and kind"

      Be Well & Kind & Happy!

    • profile image

      Peter Kirstein 

      9 years ago

      Just imagine what a wonderful world this would be if there was more kindness, less selfishness, more consideration of others and less intolerance. Love the idea of Kindness Day. Keep hubbing Tony!

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      9 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for your comments, I do appreciate them.

      Larry - I will be kind, especially to you today!

      Jean, Trudy, Habee - the point is to remind ourselves that we are not alone in this world. Thanks for stopping by and reading.

      Mr Happy - yes we are all too fallible and full of @foolishness, childish vanity@ and such, but the point for me is to become more aware of who and what we are, to make informed (or perhaps, just slightoly more informed) decisions from moment to moment, because each moment is all we have in which to make either a positive or a negative contribution to life.

      Love and peace


    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Allow me to quote one of the brightest minds ever: Kant. He wrote the following about our specie in 1784. The excerpt is from the essay titled "Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Perspective":

      "Since human beings do not, in the pursuit of their endeavors, follow merely their instinct as do animals, and yet also do not, as would rational citizens of the world, proceed in accordance with a previously arranged plan, it does not seem possible to present a systematic history of them (as could be given for bees or beavers for instance). One cannot but feel a certain disinclination when one observes their activity as carried out on the great stage of the world and finds it ultimately, despite the occasional semblance of wisdom to be seen in individual actions, all to be made up, by and large, of foolishness, childish vanity, and often enough, even of childish wickedness and destructiveness."

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      I believe kindness is truly a virtue. We certainly need more of it. Great hub!

    • profile image

      Mari-Lyn Harris 

      9 years ago

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for the great post. I liked what you wrote about the

      Rational Code of Ethics” that fellow-Hubber Paraglider has proposed, “We are responsible first to each other and our future generations, then to all life on Earth.” Acting with kindness is recognising this responsibility, and doing something about it.

      I didn't know about this Rational Code of Ethics.

      Great Job!

    • TrudyVan profile image

      TrudyVan Curre 

      9 years ago from South Africa

      Kindness is still out there. People just do not take the time to be kind. They are scared the might be hurt by being kind.

    • maven101 profile image


      9 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Beautifully written sentiments, Tony...Since you are about quoting the Master, Shakespeare has also said of kindness,

      " Yet do I fear thy nature;

      It is too full o' the milk of human kindness."

      Interesting contrast....

      Kindness Day on Friday the 13th...My paraskevidekatriaphobia is throbbing...please be kind...Larry

    • profile image

      Jean H 

      9 years ago from UK

      What a great idea. I will try to do something kind tomorrow.


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