Kindness is just love with its work boots on. –Shelly in The House Bunny
You could say that kindness is an applied form of love, as opposed to a theoretical form. It’s the answer to the question, “What would love do now?” Love may be a feeling, but kindness is an action.
In the book, Stranger by the River, by Paul Twitchell, the Seeker asks spiritual teacher Rebazar Tarzs to talk about love. Rebazar says, “Love is not a matter of belief. It is a matter of demonstration. It is not a question of authority, but one of perception and action.” Kindness, then, is a demonstration of love. The Dalai Lama likes to say, “My religion is kindness.” In other words, he practices what he preaches. Another spiritual leader who does this is Pope Francis, who makes it a habit to serve others in practical, tangible ways each and every day.
The hallmark of kindness is a concern for others rather than for oneself. Kindness seeks the highest good for the most people. It may seem that kindness is purely altruistic and not at all self-serving, but there is research to back up the claim that actions taken out of a sense of kindness ultimately benefit not only the receiver of the action, but the doer, as well.
In their book, On Kindness, Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor wrote that “real kindness is an exchange with unpredictable consequences,” and that behaving with kindness changes the doer. Interestingly enough, they also assert that kindness is scary for most people. I can’t say that I agree with everything they wrote in their book, but I do like the idea of an exchange. Every relationship, whether it is with another human being, an animal, with Mother Nature, or with Divine Spirit is essentially an exchange. When we act with the intention to bring about the highest good for all concerned, the exchange is mutually beneficial. In our relationship with God, kindness takes the form of going with the flow or acting in accordance with God’s will in terms of serving Life.
With respect to human relationships, another idea that Phillips and Taylor explore in their book has to do with allowing occasional negative feelings to exist in the relationship, and learning to act with kindness, anyway. Behaving with kindness towards others, regardless of the circumstances, is an acknowledgement of true affection, especially when it becomes evident that the other person cannot possibly meet all your needs. This is the seed of unconditional love, given to any and all without expectations.
Unconditional love means being kind to other people, to animals, and to Mother Nature whether or not our actions are recognized or noticed, acknowledged, or reciprocated. There’s another meme going around on social media that expresses this concept very well: Be kind to unkind people. They need it the most. 🙂