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How Do You Define



We all believe in kindness. We want to be kinder people. We want other people to be kinder! And we want the world to be a kinder place.

But what, exactly, do we mean when we talk about kindness? Is it about being a nice person, having good manners, performing random acts of kindness? Or is it all of those things and maybe even more?

Kindness has the reputation of being a warm and fuzzy quality. Something that is happy and spontaneous and fun. But is that definition enough?

Before we can be successful at any goal, we have to clearly define it. So how do you define kindness? Here are 8 ideas to consider.


Every person has a deep desire to be seen and valued. We all want to feel important…to someone.

This is the goal of any sort of kind act: to let someone know that they matter. It is a way of showing one another that we all are worthy of respect and compassion.

But in order to do that, we have to be willing to give something up. Our time, our attention, our resources. The only way to show another person they matter is to give them something of yourself.


The act of kindness is not always comfortable or convenient. Sometimes it brings up places in our lives where we still have room to grow. Are we willing to be kind if it also requires us to be brave? To face our own insecurities and struggles?  True kindness will never let you stay as you are. 


Most of us don’t think of kindness as a place where we might experience failure. But if you are going to care about people, you are going to eventually screw it up. Say the wrong thing (or say nothing). Offer help in the wrong way.

You are going to eventually get hurt, because not everyone will graciously recieve what you are trying to give. Vulnerability and resilience in the face of failure isn’t just required in your career and personal pursuits; it is required in a life that commits to kindness.


Once again, kindness’ reputation as a warm and fuzzy quality gives the false impression that it is easy to embrace. But the world is a difficult place to live…we constantly are running up against those who hold different opinions and ideologies than we do.

The big question is, can we remain kind in the face of opposition? In the face of social media rants? In debates about vaccination status? When we are confronted  by people who care more about forwarding an agenda than about being kind?

It can be easy to be kind to people who look, act and think like we do. But it is still possible to be kind to people we disagree with, or even dislike. Fondness is not a prerequsite for kindness.


Compassion isn’t something we have…it’s something we do. Kindness can be filled with rainbows and unicorns, but it also requires intention, dedication and persistence.

We don’t learn how to use new technology by avoiding what we don’t understand.  We don’t get healthier by exercising only when we feel like it. And we don’t get kinder unless we practice.


Children begin life open and curious about what is different. Once we become adults, we learn that different is scary…and sometimes bad. But really, is that even true?

Rediscovering the open-heartedness of your inner child can help you see people as just…people. People who need love and acceptance, and maybe a cookie, just like you do.

 And now that you are a grown-up,  you are in a position to hand out the cookies, or maybe another kind of help that can make a difference.


Someone once said ‘If you are helping someone and expecting something in return, you’re doing business, not kindness’. We all want to feel good about offering kindness to others. And we would probably say we don’t expect anything in return.

But what if people are rude instead of appreciative of our efforts? What if the homeless man is snide because we gave him a granola bar instead of cash? Well, that doesn’t feel good at all. Is our knee-jerk reaction to claim the moral high ground?

We have to ask ourselves, are our acts of kindness based on how they will be recieved? (Gulp.) Or on a deep and abiding belief that that the act of kindness itself is worthwhile, regardless.


We are so quick to judge the reasons people act the way they do. And whether or not they are worthy of our kindness at any given moment. But the deep truth is we have no idea what has gone on in a stranger’s life. We have no idea what mountains they are having to climb, what losses they have had to face.

If we heard even half of their story, we might be quick to offer our hand to help, instead of our judgment. So instead of assuming the worst about people, it is so much better to assume everyone is doing the best they can.

We view ourselves as doing the best we can do on any given day. Why would we assume anyone else was doing any less? 

Kindness absolutely can be fun and make us feel good.

But it can also make us face some hard truths about ourselves and our level of emotional maturity and resiliency.

Kindness can offer encouragment, healing, hope and inspiration. Kindness is willing to be inconvenienced, to set aside our assumptions about other people and commit to chosing the best response in a given situation, not our automatic response. 

It is willing to get uncomfortable and withstand ridicule and embarassment, because the world we live in has made it cooler NOT to care.

But that same world desperately needs kinder people, doesn’t it?! The question we all have to ask ourselves is this:

Are we brave enough to become one of them?

I hope I am. How about you?


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