Kindness considered

Published 8:25 pm Friday, November 22, 2019

Is there any doubt that we live in a divisive society that even stretches beyond politics, though politics is where this divisiveness is most painfully obvious. Partisan party lines and media bias have become the spectacle of this societal alienation.

Then there is the internet. So many of us have withdrawn into our own private online worlds of chatter with no contact or c o m m u n i c a – tion with real life. Result? Consequently, there is an ever increasing isolation from and distrust of others.

So what is step one in addressing this destructive societal dilemma of division. For me, the suggestion is “kindness.” Among other things, the Apostle Paul shared that “Love is kind” (l Corinthians 13:4).

For a while now, a number of us have advocated that performing random acts of kindness is the greatest need in our country today and the best possibility of changing our country for the better. The thought is that a single act of kindness seen by others will encourage them to be kind, thereby making the country or society more whole and unified.

Recently, Dr. Fessler, who heads up a new $20 million Kindness Institute at UCLA, finished a study on whether kindness can evoke an emotional response that becomes contagious.

After conducting experiments with 8,000 randomly selected participants, Dr. Fessler concluded that when people are exposed to an emotional experience of kindness, they are more likely to respond in kind. The point is that kindness is contagious and produces additional acts of kindness.

Thus, if kindness is contagious and will produce a more whole and unified society, why aren’t more people engaged in doing random acts of kindness?

One possible reason is that to be kind takes time. Understand that the main enemy of kindness is busyness. Kindness cannot be done in a flippant way. Kindness is time-consuming, taking up time that we might be spending on ourselves.

It takes time to visit people, do little favors, run errands for others, bear another’s burden, reason with those with whom we disagree, really listen to somebody’s point of view, pray for another, think of ways we can brighten the day of others or call and express our concern.

As William Penn expressed it, “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”