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February 8, 2013

Question:  With Kindness Week coming soon, what is your sense about how
kind we are?

Kindness is the soothing balm that keeps the dynamics of human relations running smoothly. It connotes warmth, caring, compassion, gentleness, graciousness. In the face of today’s conspicuous lack of civility and social graces, it is definitely in short supply. But what virtue could be more desirable?

Etymologically, the word kindness is derived from the Saxon word kind, meaning child in German, but which has yielded the English word “kin.” The etymology is telling: kindness establishes close relationship. Those who are kind feel like family.

In the Bahá’í sacred writings, the Persian and Arabic words that are the equivalents to kindness are usually translated into English as “loving-kindness,” in order to emphasize its close connection to love. Literally hundreds of references are found in Bahá’í scripture to “loving-kindness.” Although this divine attribute often refers to God,
like most other divine attributes, it also applies to the human being. To show kindness is to reflect a divine quality.

In his epistles, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son and successor of the Prophet-Founder Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), wrote: “Be ye kind to the human world, and be ye compassionate to the race of man, deal with the strangers as you deal with the friends, be ye gentle toward the outsiders as you are toward the beloved ones, know the enemy as the friend.” This means that it is necessary to practise kindness to all without distinction, and especially to those who are unkind because they are most in need of kindness.

Diana, Princess of Wales, said: “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” The higher motivation would be to have no expectation of a return, but karmic law, the spiritual law of cause and effect, ensures that purely motivated acts of kindness inevitably bring their own reward.

The great English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, recognized the value of kindness when he wrote: “That best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” It is good to show kindness during Kindness Week. It is better to show kindness 365 days a year.
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen February 8, 2013
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