The Power of Kindness

the power of kindness

The philosopher Plato is quoted as saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”  

We don’t know that battles that are going on in the lives and hearts of others. But they are real and we can make life a little easier as we practice the power of kindness.

An Act of Compassion

Let me share a brief example from my own life. My wife and I lived in India for about 14 months. As we attended our church one day, an older gentleman, whom I’d never seen before, entered and sat next to me. He wore sandals. His pants were torn and tattered along the bottoms. His shirt was old and patched. I enjoyed connecting with him between worship services and then noticed that he had disappeared. I was sorry he got away without learning more about him. But he returned, towards the end of our meetings, and handed me a plastic bag. I opened it and inside was an assortment of many different types of candies. I was surprised, “For me?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied. “Happy Birthday.”

He was right. It was my birthday. I don’t know how he had learned that simple fact. But his act of kindness touched me deeply. He didn’t know me. We had no special relationship (until that moment). And I thought that his gift was not something he could easily afford. He was poor. But I treasured his gesture of love.

This happened about seven years ago, now. He’s probably forgotten me and the incident. I’ve never seen him again. But I haven’t forgotten. In fact, I’ve never eaten the candy. I brought it home with me and still have it in a dresser drawer as a reminder of his kindness.

Small and Simple Acts

Most words and acts of kindness are small and simple acts. They don’t require a lot of planning, resources, or effort on our part. However, they do require that we get the focus off of ourselves, our complaints, worries, preoccupations, and even items on our to-do lists, so we can really see other people. Kindness, or treating others thoughtfully, respectfully, and generously, requires that we slow down and observe what is happening in the lives of those very real people right in front of us and do a simple act to let them know that we see them, that we respect them, that they matter to us.

Kindness and the Science of Happiness

The science of happiness informs us that happy people more frequently do acts of kindness for both loved ones and strangers. They are more likely to go shopping for a sick friend, do someone else’s job, give a meal to a homeless person, leave a note of appreciation for a family member, or help a stranger fix a flat tire.

This raises a question. Are these people kind because they are happy? Or are they happy because they are kind? In truth, it works both ways. Happiness predisposes us to act from kindness and acting from kindness boosts our sense of happiness and well-being.

Let me mention one study that illustrates this point. A researcher by the name of Hon Keung Yuen (and others) in 2008 assigned older adults living in a long term care facility into one of two groups: one group that offered volunteer service to other members of their facility for three months and a control group that did not. Not surprisingly, at the end of the trial, the researchers found that those who volunteered scored higher on indices of mental well-being than those who did not. These effects persisted three months after the end of the experiment, indicating that the benefits of volunteering were long-lasting.

Kindness and Oxytocin

Science also tells us that acts of kindness humanize us.  They lift us emotionally and spiritually. They are good for our mental and emotional health and unleash our energy and release serotonin and oxytocin, chemicals which makes us feel high or give us a spike in happiness. Furthermore, the body responds to this “high” produced by the brain by increasing nitric oxide which expands the vessels of heart to improve heart rate, circulation and reduce blood pressure. Acts of kindness lower stress, physical ailments and even inflammation in the body and thereby delay aging.

By the way, even witnessing the power of kindness releases the same “feel good” chemicals that doing an act of kindness can produce. Not as much as if you do the act of kindness but being a witness to kindness makes us feel better nonetheless.

Here’s a beautiful video to illustrate what I mean. But beware, it may make you cry. (And don’t forget to click the back arrow after the video to come back to the post.)


So how did you feel as you watched these acts of kindness? Did you notice a boost in your feelings of love and appreciation, perhaps your overall mood? This is the powerful effect of kindness, even witnessing service to others.

Look for Opportunities to Practice the Power of Kindness

There are so many opportunities to offer kindness throughout the day. And yet we often fail to take advantage of them, not because we’re uncaring, but because we are unaware. We will only realize the power of kindness as we slow down, get outside ourselves, and become more present to the people around us.

So let me share a few ideas to get you started.

  • Smile, it’s literally contagious.
  • Help someone with a chore, without being asked.
  • Visit someone who is sick or homebound.
  • Help a co-worker or friend with a problem or project.
  • Buy a treat for someone.
  • Send a handwritten note or thank you card to a friend or family member.
  • Pick up litter from around your home or office.
  • Help someone carry their groceries.
  • Do a favor for a neighbor (i.e. water their garden or trim their hedges).
  • Bake a treat and give it to someone.
  • Leave a generous tip.

The list could go on and on.

I encourage you (and myself) to look for opportunities to be kind, daily. You will experience the rewards almost immediately as one small act of kindness can release an enormous chain of positive events. Kindness is contagious and something we want to pass on and spread to many others. It is truly a way to start a positive cycle of paying it forward and making the world a better place.

And I invite you to share a thought as a comment below. How has someone blessed you with kindness? How has showing kindness actually changed you in some way?



  1. Justin Riggs

    I know nobody more qualified to teach on the power of kindness than Roger. Thanks, Roger, for sharing this powerful lesson with us. I will be looking for more opportunities to treat others with kindness moving forward…

    • Roger Allen

      Thank you for your kind words, Justin.

  2. Chuck Welch

    Thanks Roger. I often remenisce those years of the “HDI- Making Things Happen” experience and working for years since with keeping this principle as one of my core efforts. What a joy!
    Brings to mind the “Try a Little Kindness” song, written by Curt Sapaugh and Bobby Austin first recorded by Glen Campbell and was a hit on three different music charts:

    If you see your brother standing by the road
    With a heavy load from the seeds he sowed
    And if you see your sister falling by the way
    Just stop and say, “You’re going the wrong way”

    You’ve got to try a little kindness
    Yes, show a little kindness
    Just shine your light for everyone to see
    And if you try a little kindness
    Then you’ll overlook the blindness
    Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

    Don’t walk around the down and out
    Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
    And the kindness that you show every day
    Will help someone along their way
    You got to try a little kindness

    Yes, show a little kindness
    Just shine your light for everyone to see
    And if you try a little kindness
    Then you’ll overlook the blindness
    Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

    • Roger Allen

      Thanks for your comment, Chuck. I often reminisce about those years as well. The song dates us a little, right? But what a great song. I couldn’t have told you who wrote it but I had (and maybe still have) a Glen Campbell album with him singing it. I love it! Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Chris Clark

    Our family has been the recipient of so many acts of kindness I have lost count. But I have not forgotten any of them. Those acts always make me want to do and be better. I think it’s important to write those acts, big or small,down so we will ever remember them.

    • Roger Allen

      Hi Chris. I love the idea of writing them down. Then you can bring back to life and experience happiness and gratitude each time you read through them.


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