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Two children sharing a soft drink at the White House. 1922
Placard for kindness, at the People's Climate March (2017)

Kindness is a type of behavior marked by acts of generosity, consideration, rendering assistance or concern for others, without expecting praise or reward in return.

Kindness is a topic of interest in philosophy, religion, and psychology. Kindness was one of the main topics in the Bible. In Book II of Rhetoric, Aristotle defines kindness as "helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped".[1] Nietzsche considered kindness and love to be the "most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse".[2] Kindness is considered to be one of the Knightly Virtues.[3] In Meher Baba's teachings, God is synonymous with kindness: "God is so kind that it is impossible to imagine His unbounded kindness!"[4]


In English, the word kindness is from approximately 1300, though the word's sense evolved to its current meanings in the late 1300s.[5]

Over time, it has acted in part of a personality trait as a long tradition of generosity through human cultures and family-friendly benefits in the concept of hospitality.

In society[edit]

In human mating choice, studies suggest that both men and women value kindness in their prospective mates, along with intelligence, physical appearance, attractiveness and age.[6][7]

In psychology[edit]

Based on experiments at Yale University using games with babies, some studies concluded that kindness is inherent to human beings.[8] There are similar studies about the root of empathy in infancy[9] – motor mirroring developing in the early months of life,[10] to lead (optimally) to the concern shown by children for their peers in distress.[11]

Barbara Taylor and Adam Phillips have stressed the element of necessary realism in adult kindness, as well as the way "real kindness changes people in the doing of it, often in unpredictable ways".[12]

2018 Women's March in Missoula, Montana

Behaving kindly may improve a person’s measurable well-being. Many studies have tried to test the hypothesis that doing something kind makes a person better off. A meta-analysis of 27 such studies found that the interventions studied (usually measuring short-term effects after brief acts of kindness, in WEIRD research subjects) supported the hypothesis that acting more kind improves your well-being.[13]

Weaponized kindness[edit]

Some thinkers have suggested that kindness can be weaponized to discourage enemies:

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink; for by doing so thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. ―Proverbs ⅹⅹⅴ 21–22
You should respond with kindness toward evil done to you, and you will destroy in an evil person that pleasure which he derives from evil.” ―Leo Tolstoy[14]

In literature[edit]

In media[edit]

The motion picture Pay it Forward, based on the novel of the same name written in 1999 by the founder Catherine Ryan Hyde, which starred Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment and Jon Bon Jovi, illustrates the power one person can have to make an impact on a chain reaction of kind deeds. The philosophy of Pay It Forward is that through acts of kindness among strangers, we all foster a more caring society. In the book and film, Reuben St. Clair, a social studies teacher in Atascadero, California, challenges his students to "change the world". One of his students, Trevor, takes the challenge to heart. He starts by showing kindness to a stranger which ripples further than he could have ever imagined.

In October 2011, Life Vest Inside posted a video called "Kindness Boomerang".[22] It shows how one act of kindness passes seamlessly from one person to the next and boomerangs back to the person who set it into motion. Orly Wahba, Life Vest Inside Founder and Director of Kindness Boomerang explains that each scene was based on real-life experiences she personally went through; moments of kindness that left a lasting impression on her life. Within several months after its release, Kindness Boomerang went viral; reaching over 20 million people globally and eventually invadingWahba spot on TED2013[23] stage to speak about the power of kindness.

Singer-songwriter Harry Styles has been promoting kindness since at least 2017 with his slogan 'Treat People with Kindness', also abbreviated to 'TPWK'.[24]

Teaching Kindness[edit]

Kindness is most often taught from parents to children and is learned through observation and some direct teaching. Studies have shown that through programs and interventions kindness can be taught and encouraged during the first 20 years of life.[25] Further studies show that kindness interventions can help improve wellbeing with comparable results as teaching gratitude.[26] Similar findings have shown that organizational level teaching of kindness can improve wellbeing of adults in college.[27] Numerous religions teach their members to be kind and religiosity is associated with greater wellbeing and longevity[citation needed].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aristotle (translated by Lee Honeycutt). "Kindness". Rhetoric, book 2, chapter 7. Archived from the original on December 13, 2004. Retrieved 2005-11-22.
  2. ^ Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. "On the History of Moral Feelings," Human, all too human: a book for free spirits. Aphorism 48. [Original: Menschliches, Allzumenschiles, 1878.] Trans. Marion Faber with Stephen Lehman. University of Nebraska Press: First Printing, Bison Books, 1996.
  3. ^ Singla, Parvesh. "The Manual of Life - Character". Parvesh singla – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Kalchuri, Bhau (1986). Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher, 11, Myrtle Beach: Manifestation, Inc., p. 3918.
  5. ^ "Kindness | Etymology, origin and meaning of kindness by etymonline".
  6. ^ Buss, David M., et al. "Sex differences in jealousy: Evolution, physiology, and psychology." Psychological science 3.4 (1992): 251-255
  7. ^ Gleitman, Henry; Gross, James; Reisberg, Daniel. Psychology (8th ed.).
  8. ^ Can Babies Tell Right From Wrong?, Babies at Yale University's Infant Cognition Center respond to "naughty" and "nice" puppets., May 5, 2010
  9. ^ Researchers Trace Empathy's Roots to Infancy, Daniel Goleman, 1989
  10. ^ D Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (London 1996) p. 98-9
  11. ^ A Phillips/B Taylor, On Kindness (London 2009) p. 112
  12. ^ A Phillips/B Taylor, On Kindness (London 2009) p. 96 and p. 12
  13. ^ Oliver Scott Curry, Lee A. Rowland, Caspar J. Van Lissa, Sally Zlotowitz, John McAlaney, & Harvey Whitehouse, “Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (2018)
  14. ^ Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom (~1910) January 30
  15. ^ TirukkuṛaḷArchived 2014-12-16 at the Wayback Machine verses 71-80
  16. ^ Pope, George Uglow (1886). The Sacred Kurral of Tiruvalluva Nayanar (PDF) (First ed.). New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. ISBN 8120600223.
  17. ^ Lorette M. Enochs (21 November 2016). Seeds of Recovery: A Journal of 101 Mental Health Reflections. AuthorHouse. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-5246-5181-7.
  18. ^ Lagrette Tallent Lenker, Fathers and Daughters in Shakespeare and Shaw (2001) p. 107
  19. ^ robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque (London 1909) p. 35
  20. ^ Galatians 5:22, New International Version
  21. ^ 1 Corinthians 13:4, New International Version
  22. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Kindness Boomerang". YouTube/Life Vest Inside. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  23. ^ "TED Talk - Kindness - Orly Wahba", YouTube/TED Conferences. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  24. ^ "'Small changes make a big difference': Harry Styles tells the story of Treat People with Kindness".
  25. ^ Malti, Tina (2021-09-03). "Kindness: a perspective from developmental psychology". European Journal of Developmental Psychology. 18 (5): 629–657. doi:10.1080/17405629.2020.1837617. ISSN 1740-5629. S2CID 228970189.
  26. ^ Datu, Jesus Alfonso D.; Valdez, Jana Patricia M.; McInerney, Dennis M.; Cayubit, Ryan Francis (May 2022). "The effects of gratitude and kindness on life satisfaction, positive emotions, negative emotions, and COVID‐19 anxiety: An online pilot experimental study". Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. 14 (2): 347–361. doi:10.1111/aphw.12306. ISSN 1758-0846. PMC 8652666. PMID 34668323.
  27. ^ Datu, Jesus Alfonso D.; Lin, Xunyi (June 2022). "The Mental Health Benefits of kind University Climate: Perception of Kindness at University Relates to Longitudinal Increases in Well-Being". Applied Research in Quality of Life. 17 (3): 1663–1680. doi:10.1007/s11482-021-09981-z. ISSN 1871-2584. S2CID 255275797.

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