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Published September 17, 2010, 12:00 AM

Kindness is a habit, virtue of the heart

Someone asked baseball owner Branch Rickey what one overall quality a man should have if he were to marry one of his daughters. His answer was, “Infinite kindness.”

By: Val Farmer, INFORUM

Someone asked baseball owner Branch Rickey what one overall quality a man should have if he were to marry one of his daughters. His answer was, “Infinite kindness.”

I agree. I have daughters, too. I certainly want them to be treated with concern, patience, acceptance and respect. Likewise, I hope my daughters and sons radiate kindness.

We all have a need to be loved unconditionally, just as we are, with no strings attached. We need to feel secure, to belong, to relax in someone else’s strength, to abandon ourselves, putting our very beings into someone else’s gentle care. From time to time, we need someone to minister to us, to take away our loneliness and comfort our pain.

When we expose our special needs and fears and still find ourselves loved and valued, we are deeply encouraged. “I have been seen as I am, and there is still hope. Someone I trust believes in me.”

A kindly heart encourages us to pursue our vision and destiny. We share our dreams and goals, our fears and weaknesses, our doubts and confusion, knowing that a faithful heart will lift us and set us back on our mission.

It is a wise man who can recognize how important kindness is among the many virtues that will grace a life.

Reflections on kindness.

“Kindness in women, not their beauteous looks, shall win my heart.” – Shakespeare

“The human mind is so constructed so that it resists vigor (force) and yields to softness (kindness).” – Jeremy Bentham

“The one who will be found in trial capable of great acts of love is ever the one who is always doing considerate small ones.” – F.W. Robertson

“More hearts pine away in secret anguish from unkindness from those who should be their comforters than for any other calamity in life.” – Edward Young

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

How can we recognize kindness?

  • Kindness accepts. Kindness makes a safe haven for imperfection and struggles. Kindness soothes and comforts. It knows that hard battles are being fought and sometimes lost. Kindness is no respecter of persons. The poor and the downtrodden receive equal portions with the high and the mighty.
  • Kindness leaves unsaid the wrong thing in the tempting moment. Kindness doesn’t take advantage of a weakness. Kindness is slow to take offense. Kindness tolerates imperfection. It overlooks much. Kindness looks at errors with sorrow, not anger.
  • Kindness is a friend. Kindness encourages. It finds strength with weakness, courage with fear, and good with bad. Kindness knows how important appreciation is and gives it abundantly.
  • Kindness opens the door to the heart by affectionate looks, gentle tones, inviting gestures, sunny smiles, warm words and undivided attention.
  • Kindness observes. It sees needs and situations others overlook. Kindness is timely. The perception and the disposition to respond come together in the moment of need.
  • Kindness is consistent. It is the daily acts of courtesy and consideration. We call a person kind when their kind actions are so habitual that none stand out. Kindness is a habit of the heart. Kindness is present even when the soul is grieving or is fighting unseen battles.
  • Kindness doesn’t keep score nor wave its banner for all to see. It doesn’t call attention to itself or expect favors in return. It is a gift with no strings. Kindness returns more than it receives.
  • Kindness is tenderness toward the hard, forbearance toward the unforbearing, warmth toward the cold, and charity toward the uncharitable.
  • Kindness is evidence that selfishness has been conquered.

“Years ago I preferred clever people. There was joy in beholding ... a mind ... bearing thoughts quickly translated into words, or ideas expressed in a new way. I find now that my taste has changed. Verbal fireworks bore me. They are motivated by self-assertion and self-display. I now prefer another type of person; one who is considerate, understanding of others, careful not to break down another’s self-respect.

“ ... My preferred person today is one who is always aware of the needs of others, or their pain and fear and unhappiness, and their search for self-respect. I once liked clever people. Now I like good people.” – Solomon Bennett Freehof

The world needs good people, kind people who make life less difficult for each other. Husbands and wives need mates who encourage, comfort, overlook, appreciate and who habitually give small acts of kindness. Children thrive on kindness. Strangers, the heartbroken, the destitute, the lonely, the wounded – all need kindness.

What do we all need? Infinite kindness.


Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Mo., and can be contacted through his website, www.valfarmer.com.

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