“Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”

not really said by Plato


“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

Howard Zinn


  • Pretz: concept of intrinsic worth of an individual, without regard to their birth, sex, religion or race. The poorest laborer was worthy of the respect of the most royal.

  • Paratge: describes a range of moral qualities to which the whole community should aspire – generosity, kindness, honesty, sincerity, courage and tolerance.


There is a pernicious narrative that being kind just opens you up to being taken advantage of. In other words, people are not really kind because they have a “what’s in it for me” attitude. This is pernicious because it is a double-edged sword. It encourages kind people to believe that kindness isn’t valued. It encourages all people to believe that kindness is more likely to be penalized than rewarded. This triply sucks because, well, most people are kind. And they prefer to be kind.

So. Generally speaking, I am an optimist (maybe really a skeptical optimist), believe we should do more utopian thinking and believe, for the most part, humans are kind and like to coexist in a healthy collaborative way. That said. I get a little concerned that we, far too many people, do not believe people are kind. Simplistically there is a general impression that if you are kind, or nice, you are not tough — or tough enough to assume the challenges in everyday life let alone the more difficult responsibilities

At this attitude’s worst dimension, it breeds a belief ‘assholes win,’ therefore, ‘be an asshole.’  At this attitude’s slightly less worse dimension it suggests “the toughest fighters get shit done when it’s tough to get shit done.”

Now. Aspects of that latter point are true, but it seems like everyone forgets to add onto that thought “but that doesn’t mean you need to be so at the expense of kindness.”

While we could debate whether I am exactly right on what I am now going to share, the reality is that one of the most important attributes of a good person is actually “ability to make the tough decision without losing sight of kindness.” I imagine my point is that if you make the bold choice to incorporate kindness from day one <which no one seems to be pragmatically encouraging young people to do so> it just becomes something you do without thinking about it. Your life is inextricably bound to kindness and while I have no statistics to support my next point my guess is that “outcomes” are equally distributed to those bound to kindness and those not (in other words, the choice doesn’t change the overall distribution of success). So, kindness ‘success’ is captured in the fact you are just as likely to succeed on outcomes AND you can value the effort you invested in whatever outcome there is (and, I imagine, you will be more liked and respected).

Deciding to be successful and be kind is a choice**. And a big choice given the kind of shit the world tried to teach you far too often these days. Assuming responsibility for kindness … well … impacts everything. It is one of those ‘ripple affect’ type choices – with benefits in the present and in the future.

  • ** note: to be clear, I believe kindness and kind acts are actually things that should be considered success, but in today’s world I am arguing that kindness does not mean you have to sacrifice the more materialistic definitions of society success.

Yeah. I do tend to believe you can affect your kindness by consciously deciding that kindness can win and that kindness does not diminish effectiveness in the pursuit of some specific outcome. The truth is that Kindness wins if you simply believe it can get injected into discrete moments of now.

Here is where I offer the unfortunate truth about kindness – you have to do something, or actually be consistently kind, to actually be kind. What I am talking about is make choices. Choose to be kind and act with kindness. In fact. In today’s world you almost have to defiantly choose to choose to be kind. As a corollary, you also have to choose to live in defiance of all that is not kind. I mean this attitudinally as well as behaviorally.**

  • ** note: I almost think it is tougher for us to be consistently attitudinally kind in a world consistently attempting to tell you (a) people are not inherently kind and (b) you are weak mentally in elevating kindness

Look. Kindness doesn’t mean being a spineless jellyfish. I am not suggesting you shouldn’t call someone a jackass if they truly are a jackass, or be harshly constructively critical if that is what will get through to someone or even make the hard call where people get pissed. Sometimes life/business demands you to portray some jerk-like qualities. It does so not because it encourages you to actually be a jerk, or a jack ass, but inertia is incredibly difficult to address and, yes, sometimes you have to kick some ass to get everyone moving.

So maybe you need to selectively be a jack ass.


“Got to mind the delicate social nuances when you inform some poor fellow that he’s a dumb motherfucker.”

Locke Lamora


And, yet, you can be a jack ass without sacrificing kindness. What I am suggesting is if you carry kindness with you … and offer kindness as a thread of all that you do … well … kindness can win and does win.  Yeah. You can win the right way instead of just winning.

I will tell you one thing that I know for sure. There is a small sense of satisfaction; let’s call it “added value”, in everything you do if kindness is injected into the decisions and behavior. Once again, I am not suggesting being kind is a transaction. It is not. It is simply making the world better moment by moment, maybe making someone’s life just a bit better in a moment, and the reward isn’t anything to you; just that maybe the world became just a bit, if not fractionally, better. Ok. So maybe it is a transaction; a transaction with the world.

Anyway. Here is some harsh truth.

While kindness really does matter, unfortunately, in this world in which far too many people believe being kind is weak, you have to purposefully choose, or at least be self-aware, to be kind.

And therein lies my point. To get something good for all of us sometimes we have to do something that may feel a bit uncomfortable for the self. We are not machines and we need to have a sense of direction, but progress toward that direction relies on some belief that not only other humans are good, but it is just a bit easier to see the dark hearts that may seek to subvert our progress. Said another way, being kind needs some trust in humankind and a belief in kindness threaded through a society, a collection of individuals, who would like to be better tomorrow than today and recognize, collectively, we have a better chance in achieving this if we inject some kindness. That ‘trust’ does not demand proof that everyone is kind in their heart of hearts, just a steadfast belief. To be clear. Society can make this tough. But remember. We is made up of I’s, and I’s create the We. Society is not only an outlet for our individual contributions, but also a reflection of our collective contributions and beliefs. It is a place to give to as well as to receive. So maybe we should seek to create just a bit more of our world where there are fewer places for unkindness believers to hide. Maybe we should think of being kind as, well, being a good “samaritan.” Yeah. Perhaps our moments of kindness rescue strangers in ways they will never forget and, as a consequence, are just a bit more kind on occasion.

So why talk about kindness today?

I thought about this recently due to a conversation I had with a kindness kindred spirit. For just a moment in a busy day, in a business discussion, we took some time to talk about moments where we experienced kindness around the world. I would suggest that these little moments are important in a world generally mired in dystopian thinking, some misguided hopes, and relentless zero sum thinking. Those words matter because kindness and hope are inextricably linked. For what is hope without kindness embedded within it? It isn’t hope; it’s achievements, it’s outcomes, it’s outputs. It’s things, not dreams. Those are the sorts of things, as I pointed out earlier, that are often bereft of kindness. Kindness increases the value of hope. Maybe hope resides in paratge or maybe we should embrace what Alexandra Rowland suggests and maybe we kindness people just need to become punks. Ponder.

Alexandra Rowland

“We’ve all been mean and petty and cruel, but we’ve also been soft and forgiving and kind. Hopepunk says that kindness and softness doesn’t equal weakness, and that in this world of brutal cynicism and nihilism, being kind is a political act. An act of rebellion.”

Written by Bruce