You’d think that kindness would be at the very core of the pro-social behavior we need to possess in order to construct a functioning society. And you’d be right. Which, however, doesn’t mean that it is something that should be taken as a given. No more, as a matter of fact than trust or social connections.
We marvel at our capacity to be kind, sometimes going to extraordinary lengths to species around us for no apparent benefit to us. Do not be fooled by this. Everything is, indeed, transactional. But not quite in the direct way we tend to think of transactions and, of course, that doesn’t imply that everything is up for sale.
This is exactly where kindness fits in. Psychologists understand that being kind is, in a way, selfish. It is also hugely important. That seemingly selfish act is an action towards the world we want to live in. It expresses, in a very compact way, our values, beliefs, ethics, belief system and sense of hope.
It is a semantically dense action that stems from a fundamental sense of who we are and what we want to be part of. Which, then brings me to the obvious: what happens when there is no kindness? Not just as in a dearth of acts of kindness but also no desire to actually engage in kindness at a personal level?
As Orly Wahba suggests, kindness can change the world. It is too big a thing to lose willingly. A few things to consider first: kindness is sticky. Kindness is at the very heart of community building. And kindness is more important than ever.
To be willing to lose all that is a willingness to accept living in a world where every person in it and every person you meet represents a potential threat to you. Can we survive in such a world? Maybe. But it is a fact that our survival in it, no matter how good we are at surviving, will be short-lived, regardless.
Cognitive scientist, Steven Pinker, argues two things: First, that the world is actually constantly improving and that our belief that it isn’t can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. They sound mutually exclusive but they’re not. It is true that we’re not naturally equipped for “big picture” thinking. Nor are we naturally equipped for actions that change the world.
The fact that we are now being called to engage in such behavior speaks volumes about how far we’ve come from our biological origins. Make no mistake. In our days we stand at a nexus point in history. What happens next; our immediate future, will depend on what we choose to do now. In our present.
While it is true that we are not neurobiologically inclined to think in such big ways we are, as it turns out, neurobiologically inclined to be kind. All we have to do is act upon those small instances where seemingly small acts of kindness are asked of us; and trust that the world around us, in all its largeness is equally engaged in similar acts of kindness. That truly is how we shape the future.
So, coffee then. Plenty of it. Donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake at the very least. Plus, have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.