The difference between being nice and being kind
The difference between “niceness” and “kindness” is night and day, yet people often use these two words interchangeably, assuming that they’re “basically the same thing.” Well, I hope that I can help clear up that misconception with this article.
A little preview: Kindness is rooted in love, niceness is rooted in fear. But more on that later!
So let’s start with some definitions! Here’s the best set I could find on the Internet:
Nice: adj; pleasant or pleasing or agreeable in nature or appearance; socially or conventionally correct; refined or virtuous
Kind: adj; having or showing a tender and considerate and helpful nature; used especially of persons and their behavior; characterized by mercy, and compassion
A “nice” person is one who conforms his behavior to what he believes society sees as “nice.” A “kind” person doesn’t necessarily care about what “society” thinks of him; he acts out of a deep-rooted love for his fellow living beings.
On the surface, this might not seem to be a very important distinction. However, when we look deeper at the roots of these two behavior patterns, we see two very different human beings.
The nice person is focused on himself – he does nice things in order to be perceived (by others and by himself) as a “nice person.”
The kind person is focused on others – all he wants is to relieve the suffering of the living, conscious creature in front of him.
When we dig deeper into these two “personalities,” we will find that they are often diametrically opposed.
The kind person is strong. The nice person is weak.
The kind person is selfless. The nice person is selfish.
The kind person feels empathy. The nice person is narcissistic.
The kind person is happy. The nice person does not know happiness.
Ultimately: The core of a “kind person” is love. The core of a “nice person” is fear.
This is something I realized several years ago, and it really changed the way I look at people.
Now, before you accuse me of ridiculous, rampant hyperbole, let’s look deeper into the roots of these behaviors.
Where do niceness and kindness come from?
This is very deep psychology, and has its roots in the natural selection process of our evolution.
The Roots of Niceness
In the jungle, among humans and our other primate cousins, there is a general rule when it comes to Power. The weak submit to the will of the strong.
A person who feels “weaker” than another has an evolutionary imperative to be “nice,” in order to gain the favor of the stronger person. One might substitute the word “submissive” here. This is a very deeply ingrained evolutionary behavior, which is shared not only with our primate cousins, but with a wide variety of other mammals as well.
If there’s a strong warrior, or king, in your tribe who kills everyone he doesn’t like, people will tend to be nice to him. They do whatever they can to “please” him in order to stay on his “good side.” If you are successful in making him your “friend,” it is less likely that he will kill you. You even gain power by association!
In today’s “organized” society, most people are nice to just about everyone they meet. In our “civilized” world, we aren’t usually called upon to submit to the will of some random, powerful stranger. Instead, the Power is centralized into the hands of the society at large, in the form of “The Law.” Instinctually, we humans adapt our behaviors to become “submissive to society.” The most basic driver for this submissive behavior is the fear of “being on society’s bad side,” the same way one would be in fear of being on the “bad side” of a powerful, blood-thirsty warrior.
In this regard, “Niceness” arises from fear.
Of course, the “nice guy” tends to be even nicer than usual when a person of particular power is around. Aside from the basic fear of becoming a target of this person’s wrath, there is another motivation for “being extra nice” to him. If you have a powerful friend, you gain power by association. When you want something but, for whatever reason, are unable to get it, your powerful friend may be able to help you get it. Hey, it never hurts to have friends in high places, right? Meeting with the CEO… step the niceness up a notch.
The sad thing is that the powerful people in our world also tend to be the “evil” ones. As a generality, people gain power by wanting it, and taking it. Powerful people are usually the ones who have spent their lives taking power by stabbing (naive, trusting, good) people in the back. So, ironically, what we end up with is a society filled with lots and lots of very nice people, eagerly doing the bidding of the Demons and Supervillains who take advantage of them. Oh, how righteous do those Demons look, surrounded by their hordes of nice & loyal followers.
In this regard, niceness arises from selfishness, greed, and the desire for power.
So, in total, niceness arises from a combination of fear, selfishness, greed, and the desire for power. I’m inclined to wrap this particular group of co-occurring personality attributes up into a bundle and give it a simple, one word label, just to make things easier. I think the word “evil” is suitable for this purpose. The “evil” embodied by the nice person is simply a more subtle, submissive form than that of the Supervillain.
But wait, there’s more! Not only does niceness arise from an evil core; even its mode of expression is evil!
Nice behavior is inherently dishonest. “Nice” behaviors fundamentally involve the submission of one’s own will to the will of another (or of society). When a person does this, he hides the truth of what he actually wants as an individual, and only expresses what other people want to express. His behaviors are not in line with his own interests. He is not being honest (sometimes even with himself) about what he wants.
A Supervillain is obviously evil, because he is open about what he wants. A nice person is secretly evil, because he hides what he wants. At least the Supervillain is honest.
A person can have a core of selfishness, greed, and desire for power, and still be an honest human being. He becomes what we might refer to as an “assertive asshole.” He wants money, he wants power, and he’ll tell you so in no uncertain terms. If you don’t want to deal with him, you can leave. If you do, you can deal with him (at your own risk). But at least he gives you the choice! The nice person wants the same thing as the asshole, but he tricks you by keeping his intentions out of sight and out of mind.
Here is the sneakiest kind of evil person; the one who makes you think that he is “good.” Niceness: Satan’s most dangerous invention.
Meditation can help, but in order to cure advanced Nice Personality Disorder, you’ll need to focus on practicing your honesty, assertiveness, self-awareness, ethical judgment, and kindness as well.
The Roots of Kindness
Kindness arises from a completely and utterly different place.
While niceness arises from the selfish desire for personal gain, kindness arises from the basic human instinct to support life, and oppose death. This is what we call “compassion,” or the basic human attribute of “Good” (as opposed to “Evil”).
Kindness isn’t limited to “helping others;” one can be kind to one’s self as well. In this section, we will focus on kindness toward others.
Kindness arises in a three-step process:
Step 1: Empathy: Clear perception of the subjective world experienced by a living being.
Step 2: Compassion: The resultant instinct to improve this perceived subjective experience.
Step 3: Kindness. The actions arising from the experience of compassion.
The natural human instinct of compassion arises when we become aware of the subjective “world” experienced by a living being (this awareness is called empathy, and can be directed toward one’s self, or another being). Compassion manifests as a by-product of empathy. It arises as the simple urge to help someone who is suffering; to bring strength to the sick and smiles to the sad.
While we can easily understand and communicate the concept of “niceness” through human language, empathy and compassion are almost impossible to understand simply by reading these words and thinking about the concepts. There are several reasons for this, though at the core they all stem from the same truth.
Language (and niceness) is in the left-brain; compassion is in the right-brain.
Language (and niceness) is logical; compassion is emotional.
Language (and niceness) is in the head; compassion is in the heart.
We can use language to talk about “niceness,” because niceness arises from logical thought. Language and niceness are next-door neighbors in the left half of the human brain. Give this, get that. Do this, and that happens. It’s all linear, cause and effect. Niceness “makes sense.” Compassion, on the other hand, is an emotional instinct. It is outside of the realm of logic, and cannot easily be explained through human language.
Since empathy and compassion are emotional phenomena, beyond the grasp of the rational mind, the only way for us to truly understand them is through direct, emotional experience.
The easiest way for you to experience these emotions first-hand is by practicing loving-kindness meditation, which is an exercise in generating empathy and compassion.
Most people experience these emotions in daily life, but often do not even notice them. For that reason, the average person is unaware that he can strengthen the parts of his brain associated with empathy & compassion, and even generate these emotions at will.
You will find, through your meditative practice (especially if you’re practicing loving-kindness meditation), that every living being is deserving of your empathy, compassion, and kindness. In fact, you will find that your own experience of empathy, compassion and kindness toward all living things is FAR more important than the silly question of whether or not they deserve it.
But let’s not get into this yet. First I’d like to give you a clear understanding of what I mean when I use the words “empathy” and “compassion,” in case you’re not sure what I’m talking about.
Experiencing Empathy & Compassion (the roots of Kindness)
The most clear-cut situations in which feelings of empathy, compassion, and kindness arise involve cute, innocent, harmless beings who are clearly suffering.
Let’s try a simple exercise in experiencing empathy & compassion.
As you’re reading, try to visualize the following story playing out. See it like a video; like a movie in your mind’s eye. See the characters in full color, in full detail. Hear the sounds, feel the air in the story-world. We are trying to create an imagined experience that parallels a real-life experience. This story isn’t about understanding facts… simply watch it unfold, and feel the emotions that arise.
Little Alice just got a cute and cuddly puppy for her fourth birthday ☺ Alice was sooo excited, because she had always wanted a puppy. She named him “Happy,” and decided to take him for a walk outside her suburban home while Mommy was in the kitchen.
Unfortunately, Alice got lost a few blocks from her house. Scared and alone, Alice tries to find her way home. As a frightened little girl and a playful little dog cross the street, a car swerves to avoid hitting them. Alice falls down out of the path of the car, but Happy is hit. Happy is lying in the street, hurt and whimpering. Alice runs back into the middle of the street and falls on her hands and knees, trying to stop Happy from bleeding. Frightened and overwhelmed, Alice sobs uncontrollably and desperately cries for her Mommy.
Stop for a moment to feel the emotions that arise in your stomach, and in your whole body. Take a slow, deep breath in, and a slow, deep breath out while you are watching the emotions playing out in your body.
You may experience an emotional defense mechanism (laughter) “in stead” of empathy. This can arise when you are resistant to experiencing powerful emotions. This is why melodrama and macabre humor often bring out laughter in emotionally repressed people. If this happens to you, don’t worry; just look past the defense mechanism and become aware of the emotions in your body. The laughter may diminish their power but you will still be able to perceive them.
Try to imagine that this Alice situation is actually happening, right now. Hey, crazier things have happened. Actually, crazier things are happening every day, all around the world. But that’s the subject of a different article. For right now, focus on Happy & Alice.
This type of situation will inspire empathy and compassion in pretty much anybody (even your average run-of-the-mill “nice” person). Re-read the story; notice the feelings that arise in your gut.
Let’s focus on Alice’s experience, and our development of empathy and compassion toward her.
Empathy: When you see Alice sobbing and crying, you have a pretty good idea of what her subjective “world” must be like at this moment. Remember, this is not just about understanding her situation. It’s not just about understanding her thoughts, or her feelings. It’s about perceiving the entirety of her subjective experience, as if you were the one experiencing it.
Compassion: Once you’ve made your empathic connection with this being, once you can see into her world and perceive she’s experiencing right now, there’s a feeling that arises, deep in your stomach, that makes you want to drop what you’re doing, get up and help her. We call this feeling “compassion.”
Kindness: Once you’ve experienced this overwhelming instinct to get up and help her (compassion), you’re bound to take some sort of action to improve this girl’s subjective reality. Actions that you take to alleviate the suffering of this girl, which are sparked by the instinct of compassion, are known as “acts of kindness.”
It’s almost as if you are “obligated” to do something; obligated by the life force of the Universe, or consciousness itself. You can’t just stand idly by; there’s no way. Even if you tried to stand idly by to prove a point, you’d end up abandoning your conscious decision, and helping her anyway. This isn’t about you; this is about her. Life’s nature is to preserve life.
The same can be felt for Happy the Dog. Or the ant that you killed yesterday. Or the cow that you’re planning to eat for dinner tonight, if you like to think about that kind of thing.
In this sense, the kindness is rooted in empathy, love, and the instinct to preserve life in all its forms.
Clearly, “kindness” and “niceness” are extremely different behavioral phenomena, and arise from extremely different sources.
External Focus: The Source of Empathy
Empathy and Compassion, the feelings that give rise to kindness, arise from the fundamental human ability to perceive the experience of another conscious being. We are able to do this when our “psychic energy” flows into the “soul” of another living creature. To put it in a more scientifical way, we experience empathy when we direct the majority of our attentional energy into perceiving the experience of another living being.
For this reason, extraverts tend to experience true empathy more frequently than introverts do (especially in situations that aren’t as emotionally charged as the whole “lost little girl and the whimpering puppy” thing). Extraverts focus their attentional energy outward (into the living and nonliving beings around them), while introverts focus their attentional energy inward (into the realm of thoughts and concepts).
Since the choice of where to focus our attention is within our control, it is also within our control whether or not we are “able” to experience empathy.
This “choosing the direction of your attentional energy” thing goes very deep; check my article on transcending introversion & extraversion to read more.
There are some people who have developed such a strong habit of being completely focused on their own thoughts, that psychologists (incorrectly) believe them to be “clinically unable” to experience empathy. In our western paradigm of psychology, we call them “narcissists” and “sociopaths.” These are (incorrectly) assumed to be “incurable personality disorders.”
When encountering the hurt dog and the lost little girl, the self-absorbed Narcissist doesn’t feel that deep-rooted urge to “do something, now.” His focus is directed inward rather than outward, toward his own thoughts rather than external reality. His internal concept of “lost little girl” takes precedence over the actual human being herself.
Instead of acting from life-preserving instincts arising from the physical reality of the present moment, The Narcissist acts based on his own logical paradigm of “right and wrong.” He is coldly rational. While this might sound like a good thing on the surface, keep in mind that the rational mind is always, first and foremost, concerned with the self. The key question for determining his response to this situation will usually be “What action would benefit me the most?”
In the above situation, the Narcissist may very likely decide to “be nice,” save the puppy, and help get the girl back to her mother. He’ll certainly get some social credit for such a noble action. Maybe he’ll even get a reward! That puppy looks expensive, hopefully her family’s rich. Yippee! What good fortune it was to have stumbled upon a lost little girl and an injured puppy! Wait, wait. One must remember to contain his enthusiasm in this situation, as one is supposed to look sober, caring, concerned, and focused at a time like this. Yes, sober, caring, and focused. Maybe even talk to the kid a little and try to make her feel better. Now where is that mother?
If you’re one of those people who does not commonly experience empathy, you probably do not consider this to be a problem. You may see empathy as “irrational,” or more precisely, “arational.” I know this, because – before I started practicing meditation – I was exactly like you.
Seriously, I get it. Anything outside of the all-powerful super-duo of Logic & Reason just serves to cloud “The Truth.” For most of my young-life (while I was a very “nice” person), I regarded empathy as a type of intellectual weakness. This is the way that narcissists and sociopaths tend to look at it as well. Over the past several years, however, I have found that logic & reason can only show you a tiny portion of the big picture of reality. If you limit yourself to these two (relatively minor) facets of human experience, you will miss out on some of the best parts of life. Consequently, you will never experience true happiness, and go through life sinking deeper and deeper into a cold and lonely world of logical separateness. If you’re interested in exploring the warmer side of reality, check out my article on Narcissism & Meditation.
Narcissism is curable through development of empathy, which is easily done through meditation. The source of empathy is the flow of attention into the subjective experience of another living being. When we learn to control this “attention flow,” when we learn to use our “attention control muscles,” we can turn up the empathy, compassion, and kindness in our own lives.
We really do have the free will to choose whether we will be “good” or “evil” in this life. The problem is that our psychiatric system focuses so much on the “symptoms” and “behaviors” (niceness, kindness, anger, violence) that we don’t know how to adjust the roots.
The deepest way to become a good, kind person is by learning to use your attention control muscles, and focusing your awareness on the subjective experience of the living creatures around you.
Developing a good, solid core of loving-kindness will bring you many advantages in life, besides just “being a good person” and improving other peoples’ lives.
Advantages of Being Kind Instead of Nice
Brighten Your Own Inner World
Love yourself and be happy. Be kind to yourself and live a good life.
“Kind” people tend to be the happiest people on Earth. There’s a very simple reason for this.
The part of your brain that’s responsible for generating empathy and compassion is not only used for “doing kindness toward others.” All it does is generate the feelings of empathy, compassion, love, and kindness. These feelings become infused in every interaction, and every relationship… especially in your relationship with yourself. This is one of the most powerful of the factors that contribute to the happiness of a human being.
Kindness develops the part of your brain that generates love for yourself (and others).
“Loving people” love themselves. “Cold people” are cold toward themselves.
If you “love yourself,” you are your own best friend. You spend every moment of your life with your closest friend, who is always there when you need him. If you don’t love yourself, on the other hand, you spend every moment of your life with an enemy… or worse yet, with an uninterested acquaintance.
Loving yourself isn’t about “thinking you’re awesome.” In fact, love isn’t about thinking at all. Thinking and love are essentially opposite; thinking is rational left-brain, love is emotional right-brain. Thinking is critical; love is unconditional.
People who “think they are awesome” tend to be arrogant, self-absorbed, left-brained narcissists. Unfortunately, the type of “love” that they have for themselves is not love at all; it’s a delusional ego-defense mechanism.
To generate real love for yourself, you must develop the part of your brain that is responsible for generating love. Once you have a constant flow of love-energy coming out of your brain, you can direct that stream wherever you want, including deep into your own soul.
Let go of judgment (both good and bad) and enter into the realm of emotion. This isn’t about judging yourself as “good.” That’s in the realm of thought. This is about generating the emotion of real, true, unconditional love for yourself. Love yourself the same way your mother loved you, and the way you would love your own child. You are your own best friend; now act like it.
Any kind of meditation will be effective in helping you to generate empathy, compassion, love, and kindness. The defining feature of meditation is that it strengthens your attention-control muscles, and thus gives you the freedom to choose what you focus on, moment to moment. Through this process, over time, your brain naturally develops the habit of focusing on the appropriate things at the appropriate times. Empathy develops naturally, and grows stronger over the course of your lifetime. Through empathy, you develop compassion and kindness. Through this entire process, you develop love.
To speed up the process, try practicing loving-kindness meditation. Also, try to focus more externally (physical-reality instead of thought-reality) in daily life. You will naturally strengthen the empathetic part of your brain (the same part that’s responsible for generating feelings of love), which will in turn make you a happier, more loving, and kinder person.
Have a Positive Effect on The Creatures Around You
When you are nice, you are helping people who don’t really need your help, to get things that they don’t really need.
When you are kind, you are helping people who really need your help, to get things that they really need.
Niceness is most often directed toward people who already have some sort of power. By holding the door for a Lady (who could easily have opened it herself), you save her an ounce of effort (while creating an expectation of courtesy in return). By being respectful toward the King, you avoid giving him an excuse to make himself angry and express the selfish demands of his ego (while creating an expectation of pleasantness in return).
All that the nice person really did for anyone else was to “make things a bit easier.” The Lady didn’t have to use her own arm to open the door. The King didn’t have to use his own emotional skills to deal with unpleasant emotions. You may notice, ironically, that in the very act of making things “easier,” the nice person has taken a bit of power away from the person to whom he was nice.
A person who opens a door for herself has a feeling of self-respect and independence. A person who deals with his own emotions understands that he alone is able to create his own happiness. Both of these people actually become stronger through every action that they perform on their own behalves.
The “nice” person isn’t actually helping. He is simply manipulating the person he is “nice” to. Through his “nice” act, he dictates the next actions of the person he pretends to be helping. By creating expectations, he creates a situation in which the other person must give him something back. By being “respectful” toward the King, he manipulates the King’s ego into pleasant behavior. The King must reward respect and punish disrespect. This is how the King maintains his own power.
By taking away a modicum of independence, the nice person actually forces a fellow human being to be ever so slightly dependent upon, or indebted to, himself. It is a weakening; a “favor;” an act of a Devil.
Kindness, on the other hand, is most often directed toward people who don’t even have the power to help themselves. By helping the girl find her mommy, you saved her (at least a few minutes of) intense suffering… possibly worse. By helping the puppy get to a vet, you may have saved his life. You have actually done a valuable service to the object of your kindness, and given your own power to someone who really needed it.
Someone who was the recipient of your kindness may decide to reciprocate, but this expectation of repayment doesn’t come from you. An act of niceness comes not with an associated feeling of fulfillment; it is done only in expectation of reciprocation. An act of kindness, on the other hand, feels good for the giver. People tend to recognize an act of kindness as a reward unto itself. It arises from empathy and compassion. It’s an instinct. Thus, the Kind Giver tends to wave off any expectations of reciprocation that may arise in the recipient.
Since niceness is always tinged with selfishness, the actions that it spawns will be tainted as well. Since kindness doesn’t involve self-interest and is fully focused on the creature being helped, it tends to have much more powerful effects.
Be a Better Person in Relationship to Others
A good friend is kind, not nice.
A good lover is kind, not nice.
A good parent is kind, not nice.
A good son, daughter, brother, sister, is kind, not nice.
Kindness comes from wanting another person to be happy; it manifests as actions that support and strengthen that person, and overall improve his experience of life. Niceness comes from wanting something from another person, be it emotional, sexual, behavioral, financial, or otherwise.
Which friend would you rather have; the one who is constantly trying to improve your life, or the one who is constantly trying to get something from you? Which kind of lover would you rather have? Which kind of parent, son, daughter, brother, sister, etc? Which kind of stranger would you rather meet?
Which kind of person would you rather be?
Attract Good People Into Your Life
A kind person puts out a kind of magnetic attractor-field of love; everyone drifts toward him because they know that he has good intentions and wants everyone to be happy, without asking for anything in return.
The only people who don’t drift into the magnetic attractor-field of the kind person are evil people. Someone who has the “evil” complex mentioned above (self-absorbed, focused inward instead of outward, coldly rational toward self and others, lacking in empathy) doesn’t want to be happy.
The evil person doesn’t only hate others, but he hates himself as well. The areas of his brain that are responsible for warmth and love are not well developed, and thus he projects coldness and disinterest toward everyone, including himself. The evil person doesn’t want any kindness from the kind person. He doesn’t feel he deserves it (no one does, in left-brain land). All he wants is for people to do what he asks/tells them to do! Thus, the evil (self-hating, controlling) person gravitates toward the nice person, while the good (self-loving, happy) person gravitates toward the kind person.
What all this adds up to is that if you’re a nice person, you attract evil people into your life. Your closest friends and lovers are the type of people who like to have everything their way; they are dominant, aggressive, selfish, and greedy. They tend to have a deep-seated unhappiness, which they spread to everyone around them so that they won’t feel so alone. This type of “dominant evil” person is attracted to “submissive evil” nice people, who are his natural henchmen, sidekicks, servants and slaves.
If you’re a kind person, on the other hand, you attract good people into your life. Your closest friends and lovers are the type of people who want the same thing you do; to be happy and healthy, and to do what they can to help those less fortunate. They have a deeply rooted happiness, which they spread to everyone around them so that everyone can be happy together. This type of “good” person is attracted to other “good” people, who are his natural allies, friends, and lovers.
Deepen All of Your Relationships
Besides just attracting good people into your life, making people want to be around you, and having good effects on others, empathy is the thing that allows you to form real emotional/spiritual bonds in the first place. Empathy brings the “warmth” and “love” into a relationship. Kind people form much deeper bonds with other living beings than nice people do.
If your empathy level is low, all of your relationships feel cold and distant (even your “closest” ones). If your empathy level is high, all of your relationships feel warm and connected (even your most fleeting ones).
Before I started meditating, my empathy level was very low. I was a very “nice” person. I didn’t realize it at the time, but even my closest relationships were cold and distant. I thought I had the best friends in the world. Looking back, I see a bunch of insecure, selfish people, emotionally dependent on each other, facilitating each others’ bad habits and drug abuse. My romantic relationships were few, short, and far between, filled with awkwardness, distance, neediness, and drama. Even my relationship with my family was cold and distant. I rarely made an effort to be part of the family and support my relatives when they needed me; I just came to them when I needed something. I was very nice though 😉
Through meditation, my level of empathy has risen dramatically and is continuing to rise. I do my best to focus my attention on others whenever I can, and I find myself engaging in acts of kindness without having to think about it. As a direct result of this attention-shift, all of my relationships have been warmer, happier, closer, and more connected. I end up choosing different friends and lovers to associate with, and relate to them on a much deeper level.
When you’re “nice,” relationships are a chore. When you’re “kind,” relationships are natural and enjoyable.
Enjoy a More Fulfilling Sex Life
Sex doesn’t come naturally to nice people. Niceness is a coldly logical left-brained phenomenon. Sex is a much more heated, emotional, right-brained experience. Sex and the left-brain intersect in the realm of power, instead of love.
Sex is not something that flows naturally in politeness land. New partners don’t come along all the time. The nice person is usually too timid to make a move when the moment is right. It is only when a blatantly obvious opportunity comes along (with acceptable evidence of implicit or explicit permission to move in) that the left-brain is willing to approve a strategic operation. Even then, the advance will be awkward; the relationship will shift from polite and platonic to aggressive and sexual in a very short period of time. This will feel very weird for both partners and is not conducive to starting a healthy relationship.
More often, an aggressive person comes along and picks up the “nice” one. The nice person ends up as the submissive partner in a polarized sexual relationship. He is also prone to being mistreated, disrespected, and eventually discarded by the aggressive (dominant) one.
In the world of the kind person, on the other hand, sex is a natural part of life (not conceptually, like in politeness land, but practically, in every-day life).
The kind person wants everyone to enjoy their subjective experiences of life. He spreads love and good feelings to himself and others. He looks deeply into peoples’ eyes, in order to see the souls of the living beings around him. He is also naturally “touchy,” and has a habit of touching other people during the course of everyday communication. These are things that feel good, for himself and for the people around him.
Why wouldn’t he touch her gently and look deeply into her eyes, while making a deep empathic connection by seeing into her subjective world? This is how he relates to everyone; it’s the best way he knows of to relate to people. Most people like to be touched; nearly everyone likes to be understood. If someone doesn’t like to be touched and/or understood, that person is likely living in a lonely, cold, and gloomy world; he could use a bit of human contact anyway. For the kind person, this type of warm, close, connected interaction is a win-win, most of the time.
Sex flows very naturally from this way of being. Partners are in abundance. There is no awkwardness; there are no moves. All the kind person wants is to give pleasure to himself and others. It’s all a flow. It starts at first sight, and escalates from there. Some people will flow with it, some people won’t. Some people have a “stop-point,” some people don’t. With the right person, the pleasure-giving escalates and escalates and just doesn’t stop escalating. Overall, the kind person is swimming in a sea of potential partners.
As the kind person will often have a large array of options for romantic partners, he will usually choose someone who is not just a pleasure-taker, but a pleasure-giver as well. Truly kind people tend to go together in relationships, and end up with mutually fulfilling and satisfying roles. Giving and taking are balanced; the relationship is based on love, not power. Selfish power games are non-existent, empathic connection is deep as the Pacific. Love abounds. If you want to have a good relationship, learn to be kind.
Especially if you’re a heterosexual male…
In my opinion, the worst situation to be in (in terms of sexual dynamics) is to be a nice, heterosexual male. Maybe I’m partial to the plight of the sexually frustrated “nice guy” because I was one for such a long time.
For all you “nice guys” out there, here’s another interesting side effect of this evil, selfish behavior pattern. Women are positively repelled by “nice guys.” Have you ever noticed this? I sure have.
Lucky for me, this guy named Robert Glover actually wrote a book about the perils of niceness. He called his book “No More Mister Nice Guy.” Through his book, Glover urges men to repent, and change their evil ways. He writes in-depth about the problems that come along with being nice, and urges men to replace their nice behaviors with assertiveness and honesty. If you think you’re a nice guy, you’ll want to check out this book right away. And seek professional help.
Can you imagine why women might be repelled by “nice guys?”
The process of natural selection (in biological evolution) is relatively simple. Everyone is competing for resources. The “strong” ones are able to feed and protect themselves and their families. The “weak” are not able to do that, so they and their families have some, well, let’s say “survival issues.” It’s a fact of life.
Another funny thing about evolution is that mate choice is a major factor in your offspring’s survival. If you choose a weak mate, your babies are more likely to die. If you choose a strong mate, your babies are likely to have many more babies in the future. So… women who are attracted to “strong” men will actually pass on their genes more effectively than women who are attracted to “weak” men. This is another fact of life. This is the same reason that men are attracted to healthy looking women, by the way.
Exhibiting excessively “nice” behavior toward a female is the most extreme way for a man to say, “I am weaker than you. Don’t hurt me! Please take care of me.” Even worse, exhibiting nice behaviors toward other males is the best way for the male to say, “Look honey, I’m weaker than him too! Haha well isn’t that just neato ☺”
It’s just an extravaganza of weakness! Wonderful.
And, yeah, oh it gets worse, too. So, let’s be all hippie-dippy and spiritual for a second and say that we humans are “above” evolution. We’re better than that. We’re spiritual beings. We’re not just evolutionary robots! We have free will. We choose our “soul mates” based on the spiritual connections we feel, not just animal lust based on status and power!
Alright, so what’s going on in the soul of that “nice” person over there? If there’s “niceness” on the outside, what is there on the inside?
Fear. Selfishness. Power-Seeking. Evil, in its most basic form.
Imagine what it would be like to have a relationship with this type of person! The best is when he’s so adept at the sneaky art of niceness that he can mask all his selfish intentions in thoughtful gifts and unspoken expectations. It’s not that he doesn’t want you to be happy, it’s just that he doesn’t care. If I were a woman who had to choose one person to marry, that’s totally who I would choose.
How to Develop Kindness Through Meditation
Kindness arises from your ability to perceive the subjective experience of another living being.
Your ability to perceive anything in the first place is dependent on where you look. If you are looking around under the sea, you will not be able to see the clouds. If you want to see the clouds, you must come to the surface, and turn your eyes toward the sky.
Your ability to truly see the experience of another living being depends on your ability to turn your attention (your “inner eye”) away from your own thoughts and problems, and really focus on the experience of someone else.
Even your ability to have empathy for yourself (and thus “connect with yourself”) depends on your ability to turn the inner eye of your attention away from the petty details that your mind obsesses about. It is only when you stop focusing on the details that you will be able to see the big picture of your own experience. Only then will you truly know yourself… and only then will you truly be able to love yourself.
Meditation is an exercise for your attention-control muscles. Once you have strengthened these muscles, you will have the power to shift your attention away from the details to see the big picture. You will be able to shift your attention away from yourself, so that it comes to rest upon the soul of another, and you will be able to keep it there long enough to experience empathy (seeing), compassion (impulse to act), and kindness (action).
Any kind of meditation will help, but I recommend loving-kindness meditation as a more targeted exercise, to speed up the empathy development process.
How to Recognize Kind Behaviors vs. Nice Behaviors
There are times when it becomes useful to be able to recognize kind behaviors and nice behaviors. I try to surround myself with kind people as much as I can; it makes my life warmer and richer to be surrounded by love instead of fear. This is especially true in intimate relationships.
For this reason, I’d like to share with you a list of “surface” behaviors that will give you a reasonable idea of where a person is coming from, at a glance; fear or love, selfishness or “otherishness.”
- Nice vs. Kind
- Helps powerful people -vs- Helps powerless people, children, animals
- Loud about helping -vs- Quiet about helping
- Partial to interacting with adults -vs- Loves interacting with kids and animals
- Not likely to have animal friends -vs- Likely to have animal friends / roommates
- Kills bugs -vs- Loves bugs
- Eats animals -vs- Loves animals
- Does not like to be alone -vs- Happy both alone and with others
- Follows -vs- Leads
- Submissive -vs- Dominant
- Avoids confrontation -vs- Protects the innocent
- Flattering -vs- Honest
- Bookish -vs- People-ish
- Seeks approval -vs- Indifferent to approval
- Always smiles in social situations, but not while alone -vs- Dynamic facial expressions change naturally with mood
- Cares about his own image (cool clothes) -vs- Doesn’t really care about image (comfortable clothes)
- Needy -vs- Secure & confident
- Problems in relationships -vs- Happy, fulfilling relationships
- Needs to be in a relationship, but often single -vs- Likes being single, but often in a relationship
- Jaded view of love (doesn’t exist) -vs- Enjoys love in his own life
- Complains about things -vs- Tries to improve things
- Critical taste in movies, music, food, etc -vs- Enjoys everything
- Sarcastic, witty, sometimes caustic humor -vs- Laughs at everything
- Timid -vs- Brave
- Accountants, Lawyers, Businessmen; Thinky Jobs -vs- Doctors, Nurses, Firefighters; Helpy Jobs
- Neurotic -vs- “Normal”
- Deep -vs- Superficial
- Self-Conscious -vs- Other-Conscious
- Likes to talk -vs- Likes to take action
- Complicated -vs- Simple
- Stressed and Serious -vs- Relaxed and Happy
This is only a short list of the differences that might help you differentiate between “nice” people and “kind” people. There are many more (some obvious, some subtle) that you will notice as you go through life.
I don’t want this to section to encourage you to go around judging people as “good” or “bad,” “kind” or “nice.” Remember always that nothing is black and white.
Someone may be nice to you, but kind to others. Someone may be kind to you, but nice to others. Some people fluctuate between “good” and “bad,” “kind” and “nice.” The fundamental thing to understand is that people are not equal to their behavior patterns. Every person is capable of both kindness and niceness; it is our choice as to what we express.
You may decide to surround yourself with people who tend to act in kind ways, but that does not mean that people who act in “nice” or “evil” ways are not deserving of your empathy and kindness. Those people tend to be the ones who are suffering the most. Do not hate them; love them. Do not shun them; help them! Through your development of empathy, you will find that the evil ones are the ones who are most in need of your help.
Live in a world of happy, loving people. This will give you a solid core, and support your own spiritual development. Reach out to the “evil” ones outside of your bubble; be an example of what they could be. When they ask you why you’re so happy… well… refer them to this article 😉
Who is “Deserving” of Kindness?
To a truly kind person, this is a meaningless question. Kindness comes from within your own heart; it’s something that you could not hold back if you wanted to. This is like asking, “Who is deserving of being seen by my eyes?” Your eyes see what they see. Your heart feels what it feels. You do what you do.
Every living being is deserving of kindness. More precisely, every living being can be an object for your empathy.
Every living being has the same core experience; trying to stay alive, and trying to avoid death. Even a tree grows roots to get nourishment from the soil! Every living thing seeks life and avoids death.
When you strip away all the details that come with the “complexity” of human life, you end up with this very simple core experience.
Everything a person does is an attempt to further those ends; extending life, delaying death. Even reproduction extends life and delays death! A child is an extension of our one’s own life.
I may die in 50 years, but my seed (a part of my physical body) lives on, in the form of my progeny. In that sense, I will not die until all of my bloodline runs out. This is a very deep instinct that runs back through the millions of years of our evolution, all the way back to the first single-celled organism that extended its life by splitting itself into two organisms. It’s pretty trippy when you realize that our original ancestor, that crazy little single-celled organism, is still alive today in the form of all life on this planet (including you and me).
Every living being is deserving of your kindness. We are all part of the same compost heap. We’re all headed toward a final end, and we’re all afraid to lose this beautiful thing we have called “consciousness.” Life is short – for you, for me, and for the ants in my backyard. Let’s make it good for everyone.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Meditation Magazine.