Originally Published at The Deep Woods
Kindness is a powerful force.
I’ve known that for some time, and the older, and hopefully wiser, I get, the more I realize it. And apparently, I’m not the only one. A few months ago, I read a story about how people underestimate the positive impacts of random acts of kindness.
This story covered a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Through a series of experiments, researchers found that those on the receiving end of a kind gesture typically appreciated it more than the giver anticipated. One reason suggested by the findings may be that recipients feel the warmth behind the gesture, while the giver often overlooks that.
The takeaway here for me is actually quite simple: If you have an opportunity to be more kind, embrace it.
Of course, if you are a long-time reader of my other publication The Deep Woods, this embrace of kindness is likely very familiar. In fact, in January 2019, I wrote about the importance and gratification of harnessing the power of kindness as a force for good in society.
Given this latest “kindness news,” I thought it was timely and appropriate to republish that January 2019 article, as what I said then is even more spot on in the light of the new scientific research. And now, I present to you, “Try to Be More Kind.”
Try to Be More Kind
We live, then we die.
That’s a reality we all must grapple with each minute. And the fact that life is finite has implications for everything we do. And no matter what your beliefs are about the existence of an afterlife, there is no doubt that life on earth, as we experience it, is going to come to an end for us all.
This admittedly morbid, yet eminently liberating, realization is at the spine of nearly all our decisions, even though many times we fail to realize it. Think about the actions you take each day.
You wake after a night of sleep because your body requires sleep. You consume food because your body requires energy. Then for most of us, we engage in some form of productive activity that nets us financial compensation so that we can attain the capital required to fund our existence.
If we’re lucky, we have family and friends who we love that we can share our lives with, and that allow us to both provide and receive mutual support.
The requirements of a finite life also have a profound effect on your decisions about what to do with your money, how to spend that money, how to invest it and how to plan for a time when you may not be able to, or may no longer want to, work. Then there’s your family, and the work involved in making the right decisions to provide for them when you’re no longer here to do so.
For a special audio essay version of the article “Try to Be More Kind,” click here.
Now, much of my newsletter advisory services are aimed at the nuts and bolts of how to put your money to work in the financial markets so that you can maximize this critical aspect of your life. Yet as you likely know, in The Deep Woods and here, I like to peel back the layers of the onion skin so that we can access the principles at the root of the issue.
And when you think about it, what is at the essence of our quest to make sure we are financially secure enough to take care of ourselves and the ones we love?
To me, the answer is simple: It’s a desire to be kind.
Indeed, the desire to be kind, i.e., the quality of being caring, attentive, considerate and otherwise thoughtful of others, is something that we all should strive to be motivated by. I know for me, the action I take out of kindness not only feels good, but it’s always in my rational self-interest to do so.
Acting kind doesn’t mean self-sacrifice. Rather, it means acting and interacting with others so that both parties receive maximum benefit from the interaction.
Extended out to the political realm, the desire for kindness is why I am a passionate advocate for laissez-faire capitalism. You see, capitalism is the only social system where men are free to interact with each other based on the principle of exchanged values.
For example, this morning I went to my local Starbucks and paid $4.95 for a latte. I wanted the latte more than I wanted the $4.95, and Starbucks wanted the $4.95 more than they wanted the latte. I didn’t exercise physical force to extort the latte from my barista, and she didn’t wrestle me into the store from the street to confiscate my money.
Instead, we engaged in a mutually kind exchange of values that also was mutually beneficial. This kindness is the essence of capitalism, and it’s the opposite of the Marxist idea that capitalism exploits the proletariat.
In my view, a prescription for increasing societal happiness is to increase kindness. Not only in terms of our daily human interactions, but also in the wider sense of people interacting with each other via the kindest of all principles — the principle of free exchange.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a powerful quote from philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris regarding kindness. As Sam writes: “Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?”
If you want to make yourself and the world a better place, try to be more kind.
January 4, 2023
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