Kindness Isn’t Always Kind

I love kindness, lets be honest- there isn’t anything that makes my day more than a random act of kindness from a stranger.  Even beter than a random act from a stranger is the feeling I get when I get that feeling, you know what I’m talking about, kind of a temptation to do something kind- and I follow through with it.  Accomplishing a real act of kindness is a great feeling, makes you feel like a decent human being.

Kindness is this month’s virtue, and for those of you that are following the Virtue Experiment, each month we pick a different virtue and we set a personal goal that relates to that virtues.  I try and write up a post each month to guide those goals, and hopefully inspire the Virtue Volunteers (who you can join at to make goals that will be meaningful.

But getting back to the topic of this post, when is kindness not kind?  To answer that question I think we need to dig deeper into the motivations of kindness.  I have put together a hierarchy, if you will, of why we do kind things- here it is.

Level 1.  Kindness motivated by charity that expects nothing in return.  There are times when an individual may have every right to be unkind, but they choose kindness.  They are kind when it is hard to be kind because it demonstrates true forgiveness.  This is the best type kindness in my opinion.

Level 2.  Kindness to strangers because of the way it makes an individual feel.  Examples of this would be paying the toll for the car behind you, or picking up the tab of the minivan after you in the drive-through lane.  You have no connection to these people, but you are kind because of the way it makes you feel.  That is a pretty cool type of kindness.

Level 3. Kindness to your best friends and family.  You would do anything for these people.  Lets hope you are going out of the way to be kind to the people you love the most.  Kindness to your family is important, but its also the easiest type of kindness to master.

Level 4.  Kindness out of obligation.  “Can you help me move this weekend?”  What do you answer when an individual you hardly know asks you this?  If you were asked this on the phone, you might think up an excuse, but if you were asked in public you might  might say ok, because you feel obligated.  Peer pressure forces you to be kind sometimes.  Not the best of motivations, but nonetheless it still creates an outcome of kindness.

Level 5.  Insincere kindness.  This is where kindness isn’t kind.  There are times where individuals hold back vital information from others because they believe the information might cause hurt feelings.  The most obvious example is letting someone know when they have spinach in their teeth or food on their face.  The person with food on their face doesn’t need your “kindness,” he needs your honesty.  Or how about you friend you ask to critique your presentation that tells you, “Great job, doesn’t need a thing.”  Again, while on the surface it may seem like a kind comment, it fails to provide the much needed feedback the presenter is seeking.

For the month of kindness I ask that you set a goal that stretches you.  I don’t expect everyone to become level 1 kind person immediately, since I’m not there myself, but the Virtue Experiment is all about incremental improvements.  This month perhaps set a goal to that relates to Level 1, 2, and 3 kindness.  If you are feeling really ambitious, try and be kind to those who are hard to love.  That’s what Gandhi did, and he was able to change the world.

Good luck!  Feel free to share you goals with us by commenting here, or by joining our Ning group at


One Response to “Kindness Isn’t Always Kind”

  1. Debbie Capps says:

    What a post about kindness! I often think what if we all had a goal of giving just one random act of kindness everyday? It makes us feel good yes but it makes us better people too. If it were a requirement and everyone did it just once a day, Our world would be a much different place than it is today. Thanks

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