In honor of World Kindness Week, this week I'm blogging about kindness. This blog is all about love, however, and so the question I've been pondering is: Are kindness and love the same thing?
According to this recent blog post: Kindness is Not the Same as Love. The post gives these definitions for kindness:
Definitions of kindness:
Kindness is evidenced by goodness and charitable behavior, a pleasantness, tenderness and concern for others. According to Aristotle, kindness is an emotion manifesting itself by the desire to help somebody in need, without expecting anything in return. Peter Kreeft defines kindness as “sympathy, with the desire to relieve another’s suffering.” [Envoy Magazine, Vol 9.3, p. 20]
The difference between love and kindness:
Love, on the other hand, according to the article "wills what is best for the other" and makes the point that in some cases, such as parental discipline, love must outweigh kindness for the good of the child. The post is one that is coming from a religious perspective and also points out that an attitude which equates kindness to love can lead to euthanasia or atheism because God didn't save Christ from the suffering on the cross.
Both love and kindness mean doing what's best for the other person
Now, I agree that love and kindness are not exactly the same thing, but not for the same reasons stated in the blog post.
I think both love and kindness want what is best for the other person. I don't think kindness always means "relieving another's suffering" if we don't think that's what's best for the other person. Even in the stated definition, it's the desire to relieve another's suffering. However, it can be especially loving and kind to resist relieving that suffering if you feel that in the long run it is for the best of the other person. This might be comparable to being honest with someone even when it hurts them. If you can do this with respect, in my opinion it is a kind thing. You can discipline with kindness.
As for religion, well... I'm no theologist... but certainly everything in the world is not loving and kind, and I still believe in God. We all need to reach our own conclusions about why bad things happen to good people. Some things are out of our control. But I believe it's within all of our control to live with an attitude of kindness towards other people.
So are they the same thing?
I think that kindness is an aspect of love but not all of what love is. Love is a lot of things. It's something we give, something we receive, something we feel. But, as I surmised in my "8 Kinds of Love" post, there are different kinds of love but not too many different kinds of "kindness." Well... maybe there are, but the point is we are not always kind to people we love.
As the post points out, sometimes we are more kind to strangers than we are to our family members, but that doesn't mean we love them more. It could just mean we're being more polite to strangers... Or it could mean we take our family for granted, knowing they'll still love us, even when we're not so kind... Something to think about.
And sometimes we love someone romantically even when they're not necessarily kind! Actually, that doesn't happen to me too often... I definitely want kindness in a relationship... But I know it does happen! All the time you hear about people being more attracted to "bad boys" or "chicks with an attitude."
Another difference is that we can be super-kind to someone, but it won't necessarily get them to love us. In fact, it may even annoy them if they think we're just being kind so that they will love us. Or maybe they'll appreciate our kindness and think we're a really nice person, but they still won't "love" us.
I think true kindness does not expect anything in return. You're not being kind because you want someone to love you or because you want them to do something for you.. You just are being kind because it's your character. It's natural to smile and to speak respectfully and kindly to everyone you meet.
It is very easy to be kind. Be kind to strangers, to your family, to your friends, to your pets, to yourself... Perhaps the only people it's not easy to be kind to are people who we don't like. But what would happen if we were kind even to them? Well, that's a subject for another day... This blog post is already too long.
So while the meanings are not exactly the same, I'd say kindness is a key ingredient to love. If you're taking your friends and family for granted, maybe it's time to stop and consciously make an effort to treat them with special kindness. Make it a habit.
As for romantic love? Well, kindness won't guarantee you'll get that. But if kindness is a part of your character, you almost certainly will be loved.