Kindness – We Crave It, Yet Often Find It Disturbing

Most people, as they grow up now, secretly believe that kindness is a virtue of losers. But agreeing to talk about winners and losers is part and parcel of the phobic avoidance, the contemporary terror of kindness. Because one of the things the enemies of kindness never ask themselves — and this is now an enemy within all of us — is why we feel it at all. Why are we ever, in any way, moved to be kind to other people, not to mention to ourselves? Why does kindness matter to us?

It is, perhaps one of the distinctive things about kindness — unlike an abstract moral ideal, such as justice — that in the end we know exactly what it is, in most everyday situations; and yet our knowing what it is makes it easier to avoid. We usually know what the kind thing to do is — and when kindness is done to us, and register its absence when it is not. We usually have the wherewithal to do it (kindness is not an expert skill); and it gives us pleasure. And yet we are extremely disturbed by it.

We are never as kind as we want to be, but nothing outrages us more than people being unkind to us. There is nothing we feel more consistently deprived of than kindness; the unkindness of others has become our contemporary complaint. Kindness consistently preoccupies us, and yet most of us are unable to live a life guided by it.

On Kindness
On Kindness
Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor

Background on Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor.


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