The life-changing power of kindness

Robert Labayen

Posted at Oct 07 2019 06:53 PM

Georgette's Garden illustrated by Robert Labayen

Is man born good or are we naturally evil? It’s still a hot topic for scientific and philosophical debates.

Psychotherapist and philosopher Piero Ferrucci is one of the many experts who recognize the proofs of man’s natural goodness. In the book "The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life", he mentioned these among the physical benefits of kindness: grateful people are more efficient. Those who feel a sense of belonging are less depressed. Trusting individuals live longer. A smile makes us look more attractive. The elderly who talk more with others are less likely to have Alzheimer’s. Children who are loved grow healthier and more intelligent.

I don’t conclude that sick people have not been kind. It is so well known that we all have inherited genes and that we pick up diseases from our environment or the food we eat. But if everyone were to start on a clean slate, goodness appears to be compatible with our biology.

To further strengthen his case, Dr. Ferrucci cites the proof revealed by lie detector machines. Telling a lie and bearing a grudge put people in a lot of stress. It is well-documented that stress is the root of many illnesses.

Babies prove the good nature of man?

Scientists have tested babies to help solve the good vs. bad puzzle. Among the most famous studies are those by Yale psychologist Paul Bloom who reported his findings in the famous book "Just Babies". 

Bloom observed that babies have compassion, empathy and a sense of fairness. In fact, according to the study, they will often soothe other babies in pain. They pat and stroke.

It is still open to debate, though. Babies may have learned the charitable trait from their caring mothers. It’s not necessarily proof that we have a kindness gene. In fact, there are opinions that bias and prejudice already exist among babies. The hormone oxytocin makes us gravitate toward people similar to us, that’s why in some experiments, babies were seen to prefer babies with the same color of skin. This may be proof of our biological predisposition to racism.

No further proof needed

The intellectual debate may go on forever but kindness proves its advantage any day.

I know how polite, cheerful and helpful people make the world a better place. Years ago in Tokyo, an elderly woman walked about 100 meters to show me where my train was because she couldn’t speak enough English to give me directions. In Spain, not a single waitress or salesclerk ever showed any rudeness. In contrast, the impolite people in another European country spoiled my whole trip.

I’m sure you also feel great when someone thanks you, or affirms you. We are all a sucker for good vibes.

Where I work, some colleagues and many people below my official rank include me among their favorite people. They say I’m truly kind. I’m puzzled because I am sure that I have not done anything special for them. All I know is that I greet them and talk with them enthusiastically. My peers in our prayer group shared the same experience. They said that a warm smile, a friendly nod, and a listening ear were all they invested to earn their status as a likable person.

Dr.Ferrucci clarified that he did not propose we show kindness for our own benefit. He just wanted to point out that “If we are healthier when we are caring, empathic and open to others, it means we are born to be kind.” He wrote, ”The true benefit of kindness is being kind…the sole incentive to kindness can be none other than the desire to help, the pleasure of being generous and attentive to other people’s lives.”

Dr. Ferrucci believes “kindness gives meaning and value to our life, raises us above our troubles and battles, and makes us feel good about ourselves.”

I can agree that God did not keep it a secret from us that we were created to share kindness. To clothe the naked, care for the sick, feed the hungry and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

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About the Author:

Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.