Two children sharing a soft drink at the White House, 1922.
Placard for kindness, at the People's Climate March (2017)

Kindness is a type of behavior marked by acts of generosity, consideration, rendering assistance, or concern for others, without expecting praise or reward in return. It is a subject of interest in philosophy, religion, and psychology.

In Book II of Rhetoric, Aristotle defines kindness as "helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped".[1] Friedrich Nietzsche considered kindness and love to be the "most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse".[2] Kindness is one of the Knightly Virtues.[3] In Meher Baba's teachings, God is synonymous with kindness: "God is so kind that it is impossible to imagine His unbounded kindness!"[4]


In English, the word kindness dates from approximately 1300, though the word's sense evolved to its current meanings in the late 1300s.[5]

In society

Human mate choice studies suggest that both men and women value kindness in their prospective mates, along with intelligence, physical appearance, attractiveness, and age.[6]

In psychology

Studies at Yale University using games with babies concluded that kindness is inherent to human beings.[7] There are similar studies about the root of empathy in infancy[8] – with motor mirroring developing in the early months of life,[9] and leading (optimally) to the concern shown by children for their peers in distress.[10]: 112 

Barbara Taylor and Adam Phillips stressed the element of necessary realism[jargon] in adult kindness, as well as the way "real kindness changes people in the doing of it, often in unpredictable ways".[10]: 96 & 12 

2018 Women's March in Missoula, Montana

Behaving kindly may improve a person's measurable well-being. Many studies have tried to test the hypothesis that doing something kind makes a person better off. A meta-analysis of 27 such studies found that the interventions studied (usually measuring short-term effects after brief acts of kindness, in WEIRD research subjects) supported the hypothesis that acting more kind improves your well-being.[11]

Weaponized kindness

Some thinkers have suggested that kindness can be weaponized to discourage enemies:

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink; for by doing so thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.

You should respond with kindness toward evil done to you, and you will destroy in an evil person that pleasure which he derives from evil.

Teaching kindness

Kindness is most often taught from parents to children and is learned through observation and some direct teaching. Studies have shown that through programs and interventions kindness can be taught and encouraged during the first 20 years of life.[13] Further studies show that kindness interventions can help improve wellbeing with comparable results as teaching gratitude.[14] Similar findings have shown that organizational level teaching of kindness can improve wellbeing of adults in college.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Aristotle. Rhetoric. Translated by Roberts, W. Rhys. Book 2, chapter 7. Archived from the original on December 13, 2004. Retrieved 2005-11-22.
  2. ^ Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (1996) [1878]. "On the History of Moral Feelings". Menschliches, Allzumenschiles [Human, all too human: a book for free spirits]. Translated by Faber, Marion; Lehman, Stephen. University of Nebraska Press. Aphorism 48.
  3. ^ Singla, Parvesh. "Character". The Manual of Life: Understanding Karma/Right Action. Parvesh singla – via Google Books.[page needed][self-published source?]
  4. ^ Kalchuri, Bhau (1986). Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher. Vol. 11. Myrtle Beach: Manifestation, Inc. p. 3918.
  5. ^ "kindness". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Can Babies Tell Right From Wrong?, Babies at Yale University's Infant Cognition Center respond to "naughty" and "nice" puppets". New York Times (TimesVideo). May 5, 2010. Archived from the original on 2015-07-12.
  8. ^ Goleman, Daniel (1989-03-28). "Researchers Trace Empathy's Roots to Infancy". New York Times. p. C1.
  9. ^ Goleman, Daniel (1996). Emotional Intelligence. London: Bloomsbury. pp. 98–99.
  10. ^ a b Phillips, Adam; Taylor, Barbara (2009). On Kindness. London.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  11. ^ Curry, Oliver Scott; Rowland, Lee A.; Van Lissa, Caspar J.; Zlotowitz, Sally; McAlaney, John; Whitehouse, Harvey (2018). "Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 76: 320–329. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2018.02.014.
  12. ^ Tolstoy, Leo (1910). "January 30". A Calendar of Wisdom.
  13. ^ Malti, Tina (2021-09-03). "Kindness: a perspective from developmental psychology". European Journal of Developmental Psychology. 18 (5): 629–657. doi:10.1080/17405629.2020.1837617. ISSN 1740-5629. S2CID 228970189.
  14. ^ Datu, Jesus Alfonso D.; Valdez, Jana Patricia M.; McInerney, Dennis M.; Cayubit, Ryan Francis (May 2022). "The effects of gratitude and kindness on life satisfaction, positive emotions, negative emotions, and COVID-19 anxiety: An online pilot experimental study". Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. 14 (2): 347–361. doi:10.1111/aphw.12306. ISSN 1758-0846. PMC 8652666. PMID 34668323.
  15. ^ Datu, Jesus Alfonso D.; Lin, Xunyi (June 2022). "The Mental Health Benefits of kind University Climate: Perception of Kindness at University Relates to Longitudinal Increases in Well-Being". Applied Research in Quality of Life. 17 (3): 1663–1680. doi:10.1007/s11482-021-09981-z. ISSN 1871-2584. S2CID 255275797.

Further reading