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Hoping For A World With More Kindness In 2018

Monday 08 January 2018 at 8:04 pm.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for January 4, 2017, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            What has happened to kindness in the 21st Century? If we are careful whom we collect on Facebook as “friends,” we can find some uplifting kindness on that social venue. On other social media, we may not find it at all, as savage rants seem to be the norm. Cruelty is the other end of kindness, and cruel remarks fly through cyberspace like flies at a summer picnic. Not to mention in face to face contacts.

            Whether from a Christian point of view or a scientific point of view, kindness among human beings is essential to a good life.

            In the New Testament, kindness is identified as a “fruit of the Spirit;” therefore, if it is absent in a person, can that person still be a Christian? I think not. The literal definition of the New Testament word translated as “grace,” as in “the grace of God,” is “loving kindness.” The Apostle Paul enjoins his congregations, and us, to be kind to one another. God is the ultimate example of “loving kindness.”

            Proverbs has a lot to say about kindness or being kind. Proverbs 11:17 says, “A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble to himself.” Proverbs 12:25 says, “An anxious heart wears a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 14:31 says, “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” And Proverbs 19:17 says, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will reward him for what he has done.”

            Psychologists, medical doctors, and other men and women of science make a strong case regarding the human need for kindness. Dr. David Hamilton in his book, The Five Side Effects of Kindness, approaches it from a psychological/medical point of view.

            Dr. Hamilton sees the 5 side effects of kindness as: one, kindness makes us happier; two, kindness is good for the heart; three, kindness slows ageing; four, kindness improves relationships; and five, kindness is contagious.

            He says that when you do acts of kindness, you feel emotional warmth, and emotional warmth produces the hormone oxytocin in your brain and in your body. According to Dr. Hamilton, oxytocin reduces inflammation, and that slows ageing. Oxytocin may also help reduce blood pressure. The good feeling you get when you are kind elevates the brain’s natural versions of dopamine, giving you a natural high.

            To me, just as bad as outright cruelty is “indifference,” the midpoint between kindness and cruelty; and reacting with indifference is certainly not showing kindness. As a sensitive human being I find indifference to what I think, what I say, and to my being nice to others is devastating to my sense of well-being. Haughty, self-important people often use a response of indifference to affirm their own desired superiority over others. For that reason, it is as bad as cruelty.

            In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella, Notes from the Underground, I think we see a human being, although fictional, who exemplifies what I am talking about. In the novella, Dostoyevsky gives us one of the very first “anti-heroes” in literature, -- “Underground Man.” Throughout the story, Underground Man took great pride in humiliating other people in a most unkind, mean-spirited way. Underground man was a selfish man who suffered from immense self love. He was always spiteful, with an intense desire to inflict a wrong or injury on someone, whether that person had done anything to him or not. But even if the other person has inflicted a wrong upon you, a person of kindness does not retaliate with a similar or greater wrong. Underground man was spiteful, vengeful, vindictive, and malicious. In his contacts with other people, he brought with him nothing that is good. How terrible if our world would become overpopulated with persons like him.

            My prayer for 2018 is that our world will become a KINDER world! Just think what benefits we would all reap from worldwide kindness.

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Ray Spitzenberger is a free-lance writer and artist who lives in East Bernard with his beautiful wife Peggy and spoiled cat Gatsby.

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