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Kindness is the Greatest Human Trait - Do You Have It?

Updated on September 9, 2016
TessSchlesinger profile image

Tessa Schlesinger developed an interest in human behaviour and ethics while studying anthropology at the University of South Africa in 1975.

Character and personality

In a time when having personality, financial success, fame, and power over others have become sought after and admired, the most valuable and admirable human traits elevated by all religious movements have been lost. The greatest of these is a spirit of generosity towards others. Here’s what it is. Do you have it?

The difference between character and personality
Personality is the outward projection that one uses to interact with others. It doesn’t have to be an honest projection of one’s actual character, and more often than not, it isn’t.

Character is built from the combination of morals, ethics, strengths, and values that the person holds. People can have a strong character which means that their character is constant regardless of circumstance, or they can have a weak character which means that if things get difficult, their values, morals, and ethics, etc. will be comprised.

Sometimes people can have a pleasing (or not) personality, regardless of what their true character is.

I promise myself that the next time I see a homeless human being...

Loving Kindness

The greatest human trait or characteristic is a spirit of generosity towards others. It comprises three other traits. Various names have been given to this characteristic or trait. The bible calls it a spirit of loving kindness. Others simply call it kindness.

  1. Compassion

  2. The willingness to make space for others.

  3. The willingness to share one’s goods with others.

Compassion isn't pity

Compassion isn’t pity. It has much more depth than pity. Yes, it is a feeling, but it’s a feeling combined with understanding. Pity has no understanding. Compassion is a vital part of having a spirit of generosity towards others. One can be generous towards others if one has mucho money and one is in the habit of buying friends. A spirit of generosity towards others, however, gives as a result of understanding of the difficulties others face, and that is compassion.

Kindness matters...

The Willingness to Make Space for Others

Making space for others takes a really generous spirit. It means that when people from the other side of town move into your neighbourhood, you accept that they have as much right to be there as you do. It means that when the unpopular girl at the office enters your conversation, you make her feel welcome. It means when the migrants come to your country, you move over and make space for them. It means being generous allowing others to be whom they are and not disparaging someone because their culture is different to your own. It’s also the wiliness to make space for those who are guilty of harmless behaviours we do not approve of.

Making space for others sometimes means that we have less space for ourselves. That is why it is an act of generosity towards others.

When one is focused on the idea that our situation will be worse if we allow others to have space, then we do not have a spirit of generosity towards others.

Generosity of spirit towards others?

Does the fact that we mostly aren't generous towards others demonstrate that we have low self-esteem?
Does the fact that we mostly aren't generous towards others demonstrate that we have low self-esteem?

The Willingness to Share One's Money

A generosity of spirit towards others would naturally translate into being generous with one’s worldly goods. To put it the way the writers of the New Testament put it, “If one man has two fields and another has none, then he must give one field to the one without.” I find that an interesting outlook. It doesn’t say that if one man has one field, he must give half of it to the man without the field.

This would mean that people who have extra should give of their goods. Of course, having extra is relative. Still, if one field will support one family, then giving half one’s field away will imperil one. So in situations like that, when others are poor, it becomes a community thing and everybody gives what they can.

That said, when one has ‘two fields,’ it generally means that one has more than one needs, then one is supposed to share.

Well, people who have a spirit of generosity towards others don’t have to be asked twice. They can figure, “I’ve got three cars and we don’t really use one. So let me give this to Joe Tate down the road because he doesn’t have one and he needs it to get to work.” It means that they can do without caviar and give a check to their next door neighbour who just lost his job. It does not mean giving your fat clothes to a thin lady. That’s dumping, not giving.

And, of course, one does all this without feeling obliged to or forced to. It’s just a natural outpouring of having a generous spirit towards other people.

Is there someone close to you who has a generosity of spirit towards others.

See results
Most religions emphasize that generosity of spirit towards others is the foundation of goodness. This conflicts with current social, political, and economic philosophies.
Most religions emphasize that generosity of spirit towards others is the foundation of goodness. This conflicts with current social, political, and economic philosophies.

Loving Kindness is a rare trait!

Of course, all of us want to have good attributes, and I’m not sure why some people have this kind of thing and most of us don’t. Nelson Mandela had a spirit of generosity towards others. He saw that all people had a right to having a good life and he was willing to forgive those who had taken more than their fair share. He gave about half of his (not large) salary to the poor and he never elevated himself.

Yet it's not that difficult, just a change in our value system. When I was living in San Diego, I became aware of a tendency at Starbucks for people to pay for an extra cup of coffee for someone. I found out about it when I wanted to pay for coffee and they told me it had been paid for by someone ahead of me. From small actions, giant changes in attitude take place... So I think that when I meet people who overflow with a spirit of generosity (loving kindness) of spirit towards others, I know that if we start with the small things, it will eventually lead to being kinder in general...

© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    3 years ago

    I always try my best at this, and I won't say I'm perfect, but I think it's something to certainly strive for. And that's right, pity is not compassion, or empathy. As a culture, I think many of us can sometimes find ourselves forgetting that.

  • Nick Sabat profile image

    Nick Sabat 

    3 years ago from Pittsburgh

    Beautiful, inspiring - it is in all of us to do what we can do for others.

  • profile image

    Julie K Henderson 

    3 years ago

    This is a wonderful, inspiring hub. I'm inspired by generous individuals, and have recently been pondering how I can act more generously. Well done.

  • TessSchlesinger profile imageAUTHOR

    Tessa Schlesinger 

    3 years ago from South Africa

    Good for you, Gordon. But even those who cannot be 'helped' to live life in the traditional way may have some biological issues. Did you know that research shows a 'criminal gene?' As per the old saying, There, but for the grace of God, goes I.' We were lucky to be born who we are. Genuine loving kindness and a spirit of generosity towards other means that we are kind even when we see no 'results.' Otherwise it means that the result is our reward, and that's not generosity.

  • Gordon Wright profile image

    Gordon Wright 

    3 years ago

    I once tried to help a homeless kid with mental problems and drug problems. I learned the hard way that there are some people you just can't help. You can only enable their pathology. This kid ended up in jail, getting three squares and a cot and paid professionals protecting him from himself. That was probably the best possible outcome for him.

    This didn't turn me selfish, just more selective. I help those who show some promise. I think I've changed a few lives for the better. I've successfully tutored ADHD kids. I've helped a man with his anger issues.

    I help as I wish people had helped me when I was young. But I'm careful not to presume all down-and-outers are the same. Focus on the ones you can really help.


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