We cannot know the true intentions of a person because we neither know what is going on in their heads nor do we know them perfectly well. Therefore, we associate the virtue of kindness based on a person’s actions.
But what if a person’s actions and intentions are different from one another? Could that still be counted as kindness? Of course, most probably, people would say No. But how could one know their intentions if not from their actions? That is to say, how could we be sure that they are kind people?
First of all, people “label” others as kind if:
1) The other has done something for you without having something in return.
Of course, there is always something. Normally, people would be inclined to settle their debt of gratitude, which is what leads people to be used, sometimes unbeknownst to the manipulated.
The master manipulator does this subtly, avoiding its overuse and pulling the strings on one’s emotions to achieve their goals. It may be as simple as the normal “Can you do me a favor?” to a threatening “I did this for you, now do something for me in return.”
Now, there is news of kindness done by strangers, but these also have something in return. While the situation presented above may seem negative, this one is, in fact, positive. By receiving kindness, you, in turn, are obliged or feel the need to do something for someone in return as a tribute or a thank-you to that stranger. Thus, sharing “kind deeds” unto others making them, most likely, to do the same. Passing that feeling would make us feel good about ourselves, feeling as if we had done the world a favor in our small way. And we probably did, but was it really out of kindness or just a way to boost ourselves? Most would probably deny that, but to what extent is it true?
In this case, how would we know the intention of the stranger? What if that person was only shedding himself from a guilt by doing good to others? What if the person’s money came from illegal means, such as killing, then donate the money to a charity, would that still be valid as kindness?
Absurd as it may sound, the point is: As long as something done by a person benefits us when we do not expect it, we view it as kindness. But is that really “kindness”?
2) The person is, from their observation, kind or helpful towards others.
Kind in a way that person A is often seen to be helping B, C, and D, whenever they are in difficulty.
When they see that a person is “kind”, they turn to that person and seek help from them too, knowing that they would not or that there is a low chance of them being dismissed. Basically, knowing that there is a person “kind enough” to do something for them, with them having the upper hand (or so the person asking for help likes to think, which may be true in some cases).
So is that person really “kind” or just a label for others to know who is a good target or a person they could depend on? Is it still kindness when the person who received the “kind deed” does not acknowledge it as such? If so, how does one define kindness objectively, without it being placed in the Christian sense?
Now, a person, however good intentioned they are in serving others, also have their limits. They do wish to help, but when garnering a reputation of being kind, they gain a following of people who want to be helped. Some of who are capable of doing it themselves, but wish to lessen their workload or responsibilities.
As is the case often, they are maxed out and develop either a hatred or guilt for having the ability and/or desire to help others, turning them bitter and dubious of people. This is usually one of the causes in which children develop a “phase-out” on their kindness. They are called by others as cold and detached, when often times it is due to mistrust from others’ from exploitation.
So, does the case still apply that they are still kind, because it is in their nature or the way they are raised, even though they no longer give that kindness so freely? Or because no one knows, therefore they are not? Is this another case of “If a tree in the forest falls down with no one to hear it fall, did it really happen?” ?
*Disclaimer: All these are my own ideas and observations. These were not from other works or publications (I have yet to read a subject on kindness that was not viewed objectively), but were admittedly influenced by philosophical texts, in a way that I analyzed the topic through observation and objectivity. This was not written to force my thoughts unto others, but to ground and clarify my idea through writing. Comments, suggestions, and criticisms are encouraged to expound my perspective on the matter, deepen my knowledge, and satisfy my (and hopefully, others’) curiosity on the subject. Please do not write comments that are hurtful in any way.