Kindness. Compassion. Sympathy. Benevolence. Humanity. Charity. Consideration. A sign of weakness. Call it what you will, but I think there is a distinct lack of it in today’s society (a point I have touched on before).
And it seems I’m not the only one. Here are a few other voices concerned about the same thing:
- Here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly. Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth? Those who were kindest to you, I bet. It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder. – George Saunders
- We bewail the loss of our values, whether we call them civilised, British, western or Christian. We turn to a minority of migrants and blame them for ostensibly diluting them. But it is simply not true. The reason we are losing our values is that we are failing to nourish them, cherish them and hold on to them. It is a collective meanness of spirit. The reason we are becoming less and less like the Britain we recognise is not the presence of Polish plumbers; it is the putting up of spikes to shoo away the homeless instead of offering them a cup of tea. The reason this is no longer a civilised country is not the presence of a smattering of mosques; it is the decision to let people drown in the sea to save a measly amount which will not make even the smallest dent in our budget. The reason we are turning uncivilised, un-British, unchristian, un-western – however you define it – is the lack of tangible kindness. We are simply turning into the worst version of ourselves. Fight back. Be the best version of yourself. Be kind to someone today. Be a good egg. You will almost certainly feel lifted by it. – Alex Andreou
- As a society, we appear to have lost the instinct for kindness and the willingness to extend the hand of friendship. Our responses to children, to older people, to strangers, are all conditioned by a concern not to offend and a fear of getting involved. – Julia Unwin, from an article entitled ‘Our society has lost the instinct for kindness’
- I would like to put into Room 101 EastEnders. There is one thing that I loathe and abhor about EastEnders and it’s the aggression and the violence that seems to be threaded through every episode. And that violence over the years has drifted and leeched into the British consciousness, so that today I think this country is worse for it, because I think there is a vein, a seam, of aggression in this country that I would attribute in no small measure to this little lot here. And let me tell you, as a sort of an example, I’m not blaming this particularly on EastEnders, but it’s the sort of attitude. I was queuing for the security check at an airport recently, and there was a bloke in front of me, he was reading the paper and the queue had moved on and created a sort of a space. And the bloke behind me said, “Oi, you, doughnut!” And the bloke reading the paper looked up and said, “You talking to me?!” And suddenly I thought, “I’m going to be in the middle of an EastEnders brawl here.” Why can’t we be kinder to each other and more patient? And I think that EastEnders, God bless them, great actors, great stories, all the rest of it, just less of the violence, please, you’re doing us harm. – Nick Hewer, on the BBC TV program Room 101
From an Islamic perspective, kindness is regarded as a very high test of faith, as witnessed by the following ahadith (sayings) of the prophet Muhammad (SAW):
- Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith. (reported by Muslim)
- Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to people. (reported by Bukhari).
- Whoever is kind, Allah will be kind to him; therefore be kind to man on the earth. He Who is in heaven will show mercy on you. (reported by Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi)
However, this theological theory currently bears no resemblance to the disappointing practical reality. One does not have to look far in the Muslim world to see how little kindness there is, be it Boko Haram kidnapping young girls, the Taliban massacring school children in Peshawar, Shia Muslims being suicide bombed in Pakistan, ISIS beheading and burning people in acts of self-righteous retribution, and all the unfortunate rest.
In light of all this, below is a short quote from the atheist Derren Brown who, in my opinion, understands the concept of kindness better than most religious people. And here is a link to a longer version of that quote, in the form of a PDF document: Derren Brown – Be kind.pdf.
The single most valuable human trait, the one quality every schoolchild and adult should be taught to nurture, is, quite simply, kindness. Kindness. If you prefer, compassion. Even benevolence. It is the quality that makes people lovely…
Be kind. It is a richer project than may at first be obvious. For example, it can involve stepping out of what is emotionally immediate, and realising in moments of everyday conflict that those with whom we’re arguing are most likely taking a standpoint equally as justifiable (to themselves) as ours. Kindness may involve preferring to understand the other’s one–sided view in such situations rather than blindly pushing our own. If we are prepared not to concern ourselves with the immediate blow to our pride that comes from conceding in this way, we can enjoy the warm glow later when we feel like the greater man or woman, rather than lying awake in bed fuming with rage, replaying arguments and running imaginary conversations with ourselves that make us even more livid. Ideally, this ability to detach emotionally when approaching conflict, and to look for connections rather than stand aghast at someone else’s apparent bloody–mindedness, is to be combined with an otherwise emotionally open and empathising personality. That is where the perfect balance is struck, where we would be best positioned to have a pleasant effect on others…
Kindness makes us all happier…
Each of us is leading a difficult life, and when we meet people we are seeing only a tiny part of the thinnest veneer of their complex, troubled existences. To practise anything other than kindness towards them, to treat them in any way save generously, is to quietly deny their humanity.
– Derren Brown, from his book Confessions Of A Conjuror