There is a bit of controversy at Harvard University about the voluntary “Kindness Pledge” the institution has asked incoming students to sign this year. Some of those in opposition have indicated that kindness conflicts with intellectual freedom and that the pledge does not have a place at Harvard.
I can understand this perspective. Kindness is a virtue that emanates from the heart, not the mind or the intellect. In my opinion, kindness is an automatic response when we cultivate love within our hearts, within ourselves. I can see where too much thinking about kindness might get you all mixed up inside. If you are arguing a point, the rational mind might suggest tossing aside civility and going for the jugular and win your argument at all costs.
What is “kindness” anyway and why is it important? The dictionary defines kindness as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Wikipedia indicates that kindness is the act or the state of being kind marked by goodness and charitable behavior, mild disposition, pleasantness, tenderness and concern for others. It is known as a virtue, and recognized as a value in many cultures and religions. In his book “Rhetoric,” Aristotle wrote that kindness is an emotion that is defined as being helpful to someone in need, not in exchange for anything or for an advantage to the helper. Kindness is about caring. Kindness is important because it holds the possibility of all of us creating a better world. We are all human and we are one global community. What we do to one another, we do to ourselves.
While Harvard debates kindness, the rest of us can model kindness. Act according to your heart. Do what feels right. To learn more, check out Random Acts of Kindness, One Million Acts of Kindness, Carry Out Kindness. They’ll take you to even more resources and sites.
Be kind to yourself today and be kind to everyone you meet.
- Harvard’s ‘Kindness’ Pledge: (huffingtonpost.com)
- Harvard Pledge Values ‘Kindness’ Over Learning: Virginia Postrel (businessweek.com)