In a society where aggression and independence are revered, soft-hearted people are sometimes viewed with suspicion. But kindness can be a superpower.
Our society makes a big deal of people who achieve physical acts of courage like climbing mountains or risking their lives to save others. But there is a different kind of heroism that is often overlooked.
Soft-hearted people are not weak; in fact, quite the opposite. Kindness and generosity are gifts that can truly make our world a better place.
Why is kindness viewed with suspicion?
Soft-hearted people are viewed with suspicion by those who believe everyone is out for what’s in it for them in life. When someone acts kindly, it can sometimes be met with suspicion and questions such as “what do they really want?’ or “what are they up to?”
So, is it true that kindness always has an ulterior motive? While some people engage in good deeds to ease their conscience, gain approval or impress others, I think that true kindness and soft-heartedness do exist.
The ego and the selfish gene
We have been taught, based on the work of psychologists such as Freud and biologists such as Richard Dawkins, that human beings are incapable of true generosity. The idea is that we are all out to satisfy our egos and pass on our genes.
Freud believed that for most of our adult lives, we want to protect ourselves and our egos. We fight for our place in the world, our share of the goodies and to achieve recognition from others while having plenty of sex to pass on our genes. Dawkins, in his book The Selfish Gene, suggests that humans, like other animals, simply want to pass on their genes, too.
But this misses an important point about human nature. Humans have always worked together for the greater good of the tribe or the group. There have always been humans who have helped those less well off than themselves, including animals and plants, with no thought of what they might gain. Think of the great work done by Mother Theresa as an example.
Recent psychological studies suggest that human motivations are much more complicated than mere biology. Many studies have emphasized the human need for a sense of meaning and a desire to feel connected with others.
The psychology behind kindness
Freud’s rival Alfred Adler certainly thought our motivations are more complicated. His most influential idea was that people have a social interest – that is an interest in furthering the welfare of others. He believed that humans understand that collaborating and cooperating with one another as individuals and communities can benefit society as a whole.
Taylor and Philips in their book On Kindness suggest that without language and work among others, we have no meaning. They suggest that for true meaning, we must make ourselves open. To collaborate for the common good, we have to give and take without the guarantee of reward. We need to be kind. We need to move from defensiveness and take a chance on being vulnerable.
However, being soft-hearted and generous in our current society can lead us to be taken advantage of.
Kindness only really works if everyone is collaborating for the good of all. A soft-hearted person can be taken advantage of by someone who is still in the ego driven stage of life. This can result in our acts of kindness leaving us feeling let down and put upon. There is a case for setting up good boundaries so that we are not repeatedly abused for our good nature.
But if soft-heartedness is really the only way that our society can become more collaborative and cooperative, then kindness is a not just a strength – it is a superpower. Practicing kindness may not always be easy and it may sometimes leave us feeling hurt and let down. However, it is an act of great courage and strength to choose kindness over our own selfish needs and desires.
Do you believe that humans are capable of selflessness and true generosity? Share your thought with us in the comments.
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Oui j’ai toujours crue en L’Humain ! et dans ma famille c’est ainsi que nous avons grandi encore plus aujourd’hui ! c’est en effet un choix, au quotidien, j’en bénéficie aujourd’hui encore ou depuis sept ans mes choix de vies me porte hors de ce système qui tombe et l’aide et l’attention qui est là aujourd’hui est restreinte oui mais Elle est là ; tout comme je porte attention et partage là ou je suis avec toute l’expérience d’un demis siècle; Nous sommes face à ce changement tout le monde le sens,
“Do you believe that humans are capable of selflessness and true generosity? Share your thought with us in the comments.”
This article dangerously ignores the reality of psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists in our society. Look up ‘Puzzling People’ and ‘Defeated Demons’ by Thomas Sheridan.
Being stupid about it and just going ‘I choose love’ does nothing, in a psychic way it just gets you to bend over and grab your ankles.
I prefer to go with my experience and common sense dealing with people. By all means shake hands and make friends, but one hand must always be on the holstered knife or sidearm at all times.
Denying reality will only get you run over.
Until the situation on this planet changes the only real way to keep your psychic firewall intact and not be taken advantage of is to use your own cognition skills that have been suppressed by the propaganda of the psychopathic control grid.
When I was 9 my dad scolded me for taking extra candy for my school friends. He taught me a “lesson” that you shouldn’t have to give away candy for my friends to like me. Being young I took it to heart and I grew up taking scores to ration my “generosity” like an investment trade. Recently, following meditation practices, I rediscovered the joy of giving…time (emotionally) and physically (material things & monetarily). Now, I find myself running to friends who need help, while in the past, I ran away from the “drama.” Plus, I no longer look to the outside world for sign/acts of human kindness for reassurance…nor do I beat myself up for not being a “good person” by not volunteering or giving to charity. I simply treat those I encounter (friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc) as if they are aspects of ME.
I’m clearly not acting in TRUE GENEROSITY because if I see others as an aspect of ME, which means I’m self-serving. 🙂 I’m totally okay with this…I like myself and I don’t mind being generous to ME…I deserve it! Furthermore, I’m totally ok with others’ generosity whether their intent was true or not-so-true…someone is still receiving God’s grace.
I strongly believe we are all coming from the same source, you can call it God or Universe, Allah or Krishna. There exist a thousand names for this source. Besides all our different views on life there is love that holds us together. Love is stronger than water. Love is the glue even if difficulties and turbulences arise. Love is the key and the answer.
Well, the majority of people do not practice kindness without thinking about getting something in return. People are always desiring that their agenda must be fulfilled. It is like it is. There is less and less of true kindness and generosity in the world.
I have experienced both and I have regrettably done both, selfishness is everywhere you look, true generosity is at times more difficult to recognize an seems like it happens less often. True generosity is an Absolute Blessing and reflects the God/Creator Source within us.
How peculiar to use the term “I have regrettably DONE both” Edward. To me, selfishness and selflessness are states of being to start with and not actions. When they’re actions, to me they should be considered as choices too. When they’re states of being and experiences as such, they offer us a choice: to act on them, or not. TO DO OR NOT TO DO.