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6 Reasons We Don’t Always Practice Kindness

by Ellen Ullman, on Dec 19, 2023 3:41:36 PM

As we move toward 2024, a year that holds the promise of new opportunities, it's a great time for reflection and recalibration. In exploring this crucial aspect of personal development, we turn to the insights of Arthur Schwartz, president of Character.org. This organization plays a pivotal role in providing global leadership, voice, and resources for the cultivation of character in schools, families, and organizations.

In the spirit of fostering positive change, we cannot overlook the significance of kindness in the overarching theme of character development. Not only does kindness boost our own well-being—it also helps create a friendlier and more balanced world.

Schwartz defines kindness as a behavior, an action, and a practice. Kind thoughts are good, but we are much better served with kind actions, like going over to a kid on the playground who looks sad and asking him or her to play with you.

Here are six reasons why we don’t always practice kindness, along with strategies for improvement.

1. We Don’t Have a Kindness Mindset

Some of us have yet to develop a kindness mindset. Practicing positive self-talk helps develop your kindness muscle. Create an expression/mantra/saying that you repeat to yourself all the time so that you become more conscious of the person you want to be.

2. We Think Too Much About Ourselves

Life stressors, time constraints, and school and family pressures can get in the way of taking advantage of moments to be kind, and research shows that being a good Samaritan doesn’t happen when you’re rushing to get to your next class. 

3. We Lack the Confidence to Be Kind

Children, especially, may think they will make a situation worse, says Schwartz. “Help students by convincing them to not let their negative self-talk get in the way,” he says.

4. We Don’t See Kind Behavior Being Modeled

If kids don’t see teachers or parents helping others and showing kindness inside and outside of the classroom, that sends a powerful signal that achievement is more important. The Making Caring Common Project at Harvard Graduate School of Education has research and resources to help educators and families raise kids who care about one another.

5. We Believe That Kindness Is Only for Certain People

Students tell Schwartz that people don’t think it’s cool to be kind or that they are kind to their friends but not to anyone else. He attributes this kind of thinking to evolution, college rivalries, the insider-outsider mindset, and so on. Emphasize that kindness is for everyone.

6. We Assume That “Someone Else Will Fix It” 

Perhaps the most common reason we don’t act kind is that we don't think it's our problem or responsibility to fix it. Some ways to address this include modeling kindness and focusing on ways to be kind every morning. “Kindness makes you feel good, and that's a great feeling,” says Schwartz.

Topics:BehaviorSELEmpathy