Kindness Matters by Elaine Porter

I used to have one of those car magnets. It was bright and flowery, but snow and rain finally got the best of it and I had to throw it out. Nevertheless, the message stayed with me: Kindness Matters. For me, it was a cheerful reminder that the choices we make count and are important. 

On some level, we all know this. By school age, we’ve started to understand that just as choosing to be kind has consequences, so does choosing to be unkind. (A few “timeouts” drive this point home.) Even as we successfully learn to navigate the landscape of reward and punishment vis à vis our choices, that still leaves an awful lot of unaccounted-for real estate – that area where we’re not actively being kind or unkind.


I think of this as the neutral zone. Sometimes this can be a place of retreat for me, e.g., if I’ve been hurt by someone, rather than be mean in return, I opt to put my feelings in the neutral zone. It’s a little like the relationship version of the physician’s Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm. I figure, if I can’t fully commit to being kind to the person, I can at least try to be neutral.   

But what a about all the other time, beyond these restorative pauses? Where, on the kindness continuum, do the rest of my words and deeds reside?

Like most people, I endorse good manners and strive to be considerate and courteous. I embrace saying please and thank you, holding doors, exchanging niceties with those I encounter. I do this gladly and view it as my personal contribution to making the world a congenial place. Lately, however, I’ve begun to wonder if it’s also a surrender to living in polite neutrality, where I don’t have to extend myself too far and can saunter through much of my day pleasantly going about my business and quietly “doing no harm.”

Aiming to “do no harm” is fine for the medical profession, but I don’t want to be content with that. I’m capable of more. We all are. 

In fact, I think we’re all called to step out of the comfortable confines of the neutral zone and extend ourselves for the benefit of another. This is Kindness. And this is what makes our world more livable. Abraham Lincoln said: “Kindness is the only service that will stand out the storm of life and not wash out. It will wear well and will be remembered long after the prism of politeness or the complexion of courtesy has faded away.” 

Kindness is a choice. We must make a conscious decision to be for someone else. Although it’s very often simple and straightforward, occasionally it may involve stepping out of our comfort zone, e.g., including someone who is marginalized, reaching out to someone in distress when our own plate seems full. 

At these times, it can be challenging to access the kindness in our hearts and convert thought into action. That’s when we call on God and ask for Grace. If we say yes to kindness and ask for help, He transforms us from thinkers into doers and converts our inaction into action. God showers us with an abundance of Grace because He knows Kindness Matters. It matters because through our kind words and deeds we have the power to lift someone up.  And in these moments, God is shining through us.   

Knowing this, I’ll try to spend less time in the neutral zone doing no harm. Instead, I’ll plan to approach each day embracing the recommendation of J.M. Barrie who said, “Be a little kinder than is necessary” and the wisdom of Aesop who said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.” 

  1. thank you for the good advice! I will try to put it into practice right now ! In the hands of the Comforter !

  2. Thank you, Elaine, for these lines of wisdom. I especially like the quote to “be a little kinder than necessary”. Only by His grace will I do this!

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