Making the World a More Benevolent Place

making the world a more benevolent place

Benevolent is my new word. It has been on my mind a lot in recent weeks and months, particularly given what we’re going through as a nation and world.

The Meaning of Benevolence

The simple definition of the word is a desire to do good to others, to be charitable, to act kindly. I think of the word as expansive and encompassing. It is not like a watering hose we use to douse this or that plant but more like a 360 degree sprinkler head that shoots a spray indiscriminately outward. Benevolence casts a broad net of goodwill to all who come within its radius. As such, it is an attitude, a paradigm, a place I “come from” that extends a deep sense of respect, warmth, generosity and concern to others as well as oneself.

Most of us would agree that the world needs more benevolence. We have become so agitated, intolerant, and polarized in the U.S. and around the world. We not only disagree but demonize those whose values or opinions differ from our own.

Increasing Complexity

Perhaps this phenomenon is due to the increasing complexity of the world and to a proliferation of options about where to get our news and information. When I was a boy there were just a few news channels (ABC, NBC, CBS) which means they had to be middle of the road and balanced in their approach and appeal. Everyone, from all ends of the political spectrum, tuned into these few stations.

But through the years, due to the growth of communications technology and incredible availability and ease of use of the internet, the number of information sources and voices has simultaneously exploded and narrowed. We don’t have to listen to a balanced perspective. Someone is out there promoting exactly what we want to hear. We’re no longer seekers of truth. We no longer value tolerance and dialogue. We revel in hearing what we want to hear which is becoming more and more extreme.

Unfortunately, we are paying a high personal and social price for our intolerance. Not only does it cost us our personal tranquility and sense of well-being but drives us further apart and makes it more difficult to solve our shared problems.

How to Become More Benevolent

So what are we to do? How do we change this dynamic (which is so much bigger than any one of us)? Let me offer a few steps.

1. Recognize it as our Normal State

It helps me to know that benevolence is our normal state. Given the choice, most of us prefer harmony over conflict, goodwill over animosity, kindness over cruelty. We know and desire what is good. Something pretty deep within us is drawn to these qualities. This thought brings me hope.

2. Become Aware of What it Feels Like

I develop benevolence as I take time to be aware of what it feels like. When have you experienced kindness and goodwill from others? Who has extended it towards you? What was/is it like? How does it feel in your body, heart, and mind?

3. Nurture it Through Self-Care

Benevolence grows when I nurture it through self-care and kindness—as I release self-judgments and become more accepting of my own mistakes and imperfections; as I accept myself for who I am rather than comparing myself to someone else or trying to live an ideal image; as I take some daily time-outs to do small and simple things that meet my needs and bring me joy.

4. Make it Your Daily Intention

Benevolence expands as I make it my daily intention—“I choose to meet this day with goodwill and kindness towards myself and others.” It is a choice which, when planted deep in my heart, becomes my automatic response to the events of the day.

5. Return to Your Breathing Often

I create benevolence as I return to my breathing often. I calm my mind and find peace and goodwill as I take two or three minutes to consciously breathe in love and breathe out stress.

6. Cultivate Gratitude

I find benevolence as I cultivate gratitude and appreciation. This means that I choose to focus on the good things that are happening in my life and recognize all the ways in which life and the actions of others bless and support me.

7. Greet Others Warmly

I spread benevolence as I greet others warmly and excitedly; as I look into their faces and eyes and really see them; as I call them by name and genuinely ask how they are doing or extend them well-wishes.

8. Make Positive Assumptions

I become benevolent as I make positive assumptions about people and events. This means that I do my best to see their behavior from their point of view. I give them the benefit of the doubt by seeing the intention underneath their behavior and I allow them to be imperfect or see the perfection in the process of their development.

9. Listen Deeply

I expand benevolence by deep listening, by being a safe place for others to open up and talk, by being present as they share their joys and suffering, by letting go of the need to fix them or persuade them they are “wrong” or need to change.

10. Invite Dialogue Rather than Argument

I am benevolent as I engage in dialogue rather than arguments. This means that I advocate my point of view clearly but respectfully. I’m curious, ask questions and encourage others to share their points of view. And, I avoid polarizing language and search for common ground and win-win outcomes.

11. Do Acts of Kindness

I make the world a more benevolent place by getting out of my routine and doing unexpected acts of kindness each day. As Gandhi said, “The simplest acts of kindness are more powerful than a thousand heads bowed in prayer.” It could be as simple as a smile or greeting to a stranger on the street, giving to someone in need, helping a family member do an unpleasant chore.

Benevolence Begins Inside of Me

I often wish that entities “out there” were more benevolent—government, a business, political party, interest group, television or radio host, and so on. But I also know that, ultimately, benevolence is more personal than political. I will never know it “out there” if I don’t cultivate it and feel it “in here.” Most of us will make the world better not because we change what is happening in the realm of politics but because we change what is happening in our own hearts. The most important place to make the world a more benevolent place is inside me.



  1. Holmanfam1

    This was so spot on! A calm voice that doesn’t scream allows a person to hear so much better. Thank you!

  2. Rajkumar Tamang

    love it!

  3. Russ Kyncl

    Thoughtful and useful as always, Roger. Thank you for putting this out there. It helps me to fast from media on a regular basis. Also, I highly recommend a little website called Gratefulness.org, and a video titled “A Good Day.” It is a 6-minute booster shot on what is right with the world and the people in it.

  4. Diane

    I’m so glad my cousin Linda forwarded this to me. It is so good to feel the kind wisdom I felt so many years ago during a weekend group-therapy that changed my life for the good. Thank you Roger, for the valuable teachings you provide.

    • Pam Infanger

      “Never know it “out there” if I don’t cultivate it “in here”…as always you touch the deepest parts of all who call you friend!How blessed am I by your ever present benevolence. I choose to meet the world each day with more of it!!!


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