Is there any doubt that we live in a divisive society that even stretches beyond politics, though politics is where this divisiveness is most painfully obvious? Partisan party lines and media bias have become the spectacle of this societal alienation.
Then there is the internet. So many of us have withdrawn into our own private online worlds of chatter with no contact or communication with real life. Result? Consequently, there is an ever-increasing isolation from and distrust of others.
So what is step one in addressing this destructive societal dilemma of division? For me, the suggestion is kindness. Among other things, the Apostle Paul shared that “Love is kind,” (l Corinthians 13:4).
What is kindness? Simply stated, kindness is described as “love in action.” It is those things we do.
For a while now, a number of us have advocated that performing random acts of kindness is the greatest need in our country today and the best possibility of changing our country for the better. The thought is that a single act of kindness seen by others will encourage them to be kind, thereby making the country or society more whole and unified.
Well, this thought is more than a hunch as the results of a recent study have made clear.
It has been reported that UCLA anthropology professor Daniel Fessler has spent a number of years studying the positive effects of kindness. Recently, Dr. Fessler, who heads up a new $20 million Kindness Institute at UCLA, finished a study on whether kindness can evoke an emotional response that becomes contagious.
After conducting experiments with 8,000 randomly selected participants, Dr. Fessler concluded that when people are exposed to an emotional experience of kindness, they are more likely to respond in kind. The point is that kindness is contagious and produces additional acts of kindness.
Want to change this country and world? Spread love through practical acts of kindness.
Having back trouble a couple of weeks ago, I called my therapist who lives in another city. Telling him what was going on with my back and leg, he agreed to meet me the next day, which was Sunday.
This therapist worked with me, diagnosed the problem and prescribed a healing course of action. He did this prior to his flight which was leaving in a couple of hours.
When I was preparing to leave, I asked about the charges and what I owed? To my surprise, he replied, “Nothing.” Then he added, “You’ve always been there for us.”
I’m not sharing this with you for any accolades because none are deserved. I am sharing this with you because it makes Dr. Fessler’s point: kindness begets kindness. Kindness is contagious.
Thus, if kindness is contagious and will produce a more whole and unified society, why aren’t more people engaged in doing random acts of kindness?
One possible reason is that to be kind takes time, lots of time. Understand that the main enemy of kindness is busyness. Kindness cannot be done in a flippant way. Kindness is time-consuming, taking up time that we might be spending on ourselves.
For sure, it takes time to visit people, do little favors, run errands for others, bear another’s burden, reason with those with whom we disagree, really listen to somebody’s point of view, pray for another, think of ways we can brighten the day of others or call and express our concern.
However, I believe that kindness is a choice. Paul writes in Colossians, “As God’s chosen ones, holy beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, and patience,” (3:12). Notice here the word “clothe.” The Greek word literally means “put on.”
In other words, as you put on your clothes for the day, choose also to wear kindness. Make kindness your choice. Whatever the situation, kindness is a choice and a unifying act of community.
As William Penn expressed it, “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” Love is always kind.