“What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?”
Jean Jacques Rousseau
In the 1930s my dad was a student at CoIlege of the Pacific. He and his fraternity brothers decided to put some research to the test. They’d heard plants were affected by how people talked to them: with kind, encouraging talk they thrived. Trash talk them and they withered.
My dad and his friends named the two large plants on either side of the frat house entrance Fred and Larry. They decided to hate Fred and love Larry…drum roll…Larry thrived and, in a matter of months, Fred drooped and had to be replaced.
The amazing next part of the story is what touches me most (maybe because its ripples actually did touch me.) My dad and his friends were shocked. They called a meeting and concluded that “If being kind and being mean had such an impact on Fred and Larry, it’s got to be true for people too.” They then committed to being kind to each other. And it became habitual. My dad was kind to business colleagues, clients, and family, including me. Lucky me!
The lesson of Fred and Larry is twofold, demonstrating both the power of kindness, and the power of unkindness.
I am reminded of a retired divorce lawyer I know. As a practicing lawyer he had a reputation for getting people favorable settlements. Once retired, he reflected on all those divorces and wondered if there were any way he could help save marriages instead. People still call on him occasionally to help with divorces, so he has tried an experiment. He agrees to take a case only if the potential client agrees to his terms, which he promises will “smooth the process.” Here are the terms: “for one month bend over backwards with kindness toward the spouse you want to divorce.” You can guess the outcome. In almost every case the client falls back in love and decides to stay married.
With kindness both givers and receivers benefit. Scott Adams said it well:
“There’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act carries a ripple with no logical end.”
- What is the habit you’ve developed on the kindness…meanness spectrum?
- How might you become more aware when you’re thinking mean thoughts or about to say or do something unkind?
- When you become aware, choose kindness every time.
- Be extra kind to the people you love.
- Look for ways to do random acts of kindness, which ripple out into the world. (Check the website www.actsofkindness.org, the website of The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. There you’ll find ideas for spreading kindness in your workplace and your community.)