When you think of a kind person, what do you imagine?
Is it someone ambitious, driven, and successful in their life?
Or is it someone who seems to be pushed around by life, who is too ‘nice’ to stand up for themselves?
Strangely, our society often looks at people who are kind as weak.
The general consensus seems to be that because someone is willing to be friendly, courteous, or generous that somehow this means that they do not have inner strength.
However, the reality is that this belief is entirely false.
In my experience, those who show the most kindness and compassion in life are the strongest. Over the long term, people who display kindness towards others and themselves end up with the greatest rewards in life.
In this article, I want to examine the concept of being a kind and strong person. With the right mindset, these two character traits can work together to help us become a person of impact and influence in the world.
What is Kindness?
You probably already have a good understanding of what it means to be kind and to experience the kindness of others.
The dictionary definition of kindness is “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.”
Aristotle had an excellent definition of kindness in Book II of Rhetoric:
“Kindness – under the influence of which a man is said to “be kind” — may be defined as helpfulness towards some one in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped.”
Kindness synonyms are benevolence, courtesy, favor, grace, indulgence, mercy, and service. Good deeds – sometimes called a ‘random act of kindness’ – are a form of kind behavior that many people also practice.
All these terms encapsulate the different ways to be kind but to truly understand the meaning of kindness, you have to experience it.
Interestingly, the word Kind comes from the Germanic word Cynde, which originally meant ‘innate.’
In this respect, the practice of kindness is inherent in each of us, but we must choose to exercise it.
Kindness in Today’s World
In modern times, kindness is becoming part of the zeitgeist.
A Random Acts of Kindness Week is celebrated every year in February. According to the organizers of Kindness Week: “It is important for us to constantly be reminded to be kind to one another and to give others hope whenever we can. A small and random gesture of kindness can go a long way.”
In 2021, the social media platform Snapchat created a Spread Kindness campaign to encourage people to perform a small act of kindness and share it on the platform. The TikTok platform also reported that videos using hashtags related to kindness, such as #love and #kindness, have created over 50 billion videos and earned over 400 billion views worldwide.
A 2019 Journal of Social Psychology study also found that after seven days of kindness, most participants experienced a boost in happiness.
The Kindness Foundation was established in 1998 and today offers Kindness Toolkits to ‘inform, educate, and inspire kindness in schools and workplaces.’
More than ever, the concept of kindness is linked to happiness, fulfillment, and making an impact in the world.
Is it Good to be a Kind Person?
Most religious and spiritual texts espouse the value of kindness towards others.
The most famous is 1 Corinthians 13:4, which states, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.”
In Sanskrit, the equivalent of compassion is known as karnuna. It is a virtuous feeling which is generated in the mellowness of the heart. God is considered a karunamayi, the very personification of compassion in Hinduism.
In the Muslim teachings Sunan Tirmidhi, Hadith: 2612, it states: ‘The Prophet said: “Indeed among the believers with the most complete faith is the one who is the best in conduct and the most kind to his family.”‘
The new age and personal development gurus also talk about being kind to yourself and practicing human kindness.
Wayne Dyer, a famous self-help author, shared the idea that “The more you extend kindness to yourself, the more it will become your automatic response to others.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson shared the idea that “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
It’s clear from these examples that the practice of being kind is seen as a good thing and virtuous in most forms of religious and spiritual faith.
Three Benefits of Being a Kind Person
But what are the benefits of being a kind person? Why should you bother being kind to others? You could be mean, selfish, cruel, and inconsiderate and probably still survive. But you’ll likely be living a miserable life and alone most of the time.
In my experience, there are three big benefits of being a genuinely kind person.
1) You feel good when you are kind
It just feels better on the inside when you are kind to others. There’s no better way to experience positive emotions and inner fulfillment in life than to be friendly, generous, considerate, and kind to others. So if you’re looking for a life hack that works all the time, try being kinder to everyone you meet. You’ll feel better about yourself and the world around you.
2) Life is easier when you are kind
No matter what situation you are in, either at work, with a family member, or in a social or romantic dynamic, being kind will help you. Being kind to others makes them more receptive to your requests and suggestions. It can also help to remove stress and break through tension. It makes leading people easier and tends to make every situation flow smoothly. It’s simple to be kind, but it works wonders when dealing with people at work or home.
3) Being kind builds character
It’s very easy not to be kind when you are angry, upset, annoyed, or feel like someone is being unfair to you. The temptation to act like an asshole is easy to fall into, even though you never feel good about yourself afterward.
The ability to remain calm and kind in the face of negativity or meanness is a great way to build character. The temperance of not reacting negatively does not always show benefits in the moment, but over time it pays dividends. The kindest people have the most character and are better equipped to handle difficult times in life.
Is a Kind Person a Strong Person?
The answer is that it depends.
Some people who display kind-hearted traits or perform a kind act are strong and have a significant amount of character. However, many people use kindness to get attention, affection, or agreement from others, which can be viewed as a weak trait.
There is also a tendency for some kind people not to set proper boundaries with people, so they get taken advantage of. Kind people, by their nature, want to help and support others, but some people also prey on the kindness they offer and take advantage.
Mistaking Kindness for Weakness
There is a famous quote by Al Capone: “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me.”
But while Al Capone essentially offered a masked threat with this statement, the concept has stuck around. Capone’s quote has been reused in many movies and TV shows and has even become a part of modern vernacular.
Unfortunately, some people mistake kind acts and prosocial behavior as somehow being a cover or mask for inner weakness.
The concept of being a ‘nice guy’ or ‘too nice’ is a common way that kind behavior is misinterpreted. While some people may use fake empathy or generosity to gain favor, this is not the true form of kindness.
A great deal of psychology is behind the desire to coerce, trick, or manipulate people through kindness, but most of the time, these attempts fall flat.
How Can I be Strong and Kind?
With the right approach and mindset, it is possible to be a kind and strong person. There are many examples of people who show generosity, empathy, and compassion while also having inner strength.
Here are three ways that I have discovered that can help you be kind and strong in your life.
Help Others To Help Themselves
When we perform a simple act of kindness for a person, it can often lead to us going too far. We can try to overhelp or to take over the whole situation. While this desire to help comes from a good place, it also disables the person from helping themselves.
Often a random kindness for someone is better than trying to help them all the time. Find ways to support people to do better for themselves. Offer encouragement and support, but allow people to discover their own solutions. Building a person’s confidence and competence is one of the kindest ways to help.
Don’t Be Kind to Get Something
The hallmark of a person who is using kindness in the wrong way is to attempt to gain an advantage through kindness. You see this in people who ‘suck up’ to others with flattery or try to force reciprocation for a kind act.
If you are going to be kind to someone, do it without consideration of what you’ll get in return. Instead, act in a kind way because it’s what you would like others to do for you.
When you come from a place of generosity and altruism, you align with the true purpose of kindness. You also remove the chance of being viewed as weak, manipulative, or deceptive.
Know Your Boundaries With Kindness
Many naturally kind people sometimes go too far in the service of others. Whether it is by giving too much of their time, money, or energy, they end up feeling depleted by giving out to others.
A great rule of thumb is the 49/51 rule. The idea is to help others all the way to 49% of your generosity tolerance. Don’t push it beyond 50%, or you will begin to get resentful and weakened by being too kind.
The best way to be kind and strong is to set clear boundaries. If you are willing to help someone in need, let them know ahead of time how much help you can give. Be clear about how much time you can commit or how much energy you can devote to helping.
A clear boundary around your acts of kindness will help you not feel like you are depleted and stop people from taking advantage of your kindness.
Kindness Is A Strength
People show their character when they choose to be kind to another person. Unfortunately, it is very easy to fall into the habit of being mean, cynical, or indifferent to the plight of others.
But those people who consciously choose to be kind display their inner strength through their behavior.
As Aesop once said, ‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’
Every act of kindness you perform makes you stronger. It makes the world a better place, and it rewards you for many years to come.