What Does Kindness Mean, Anyway?

Seriously, have you ever thought about what the word kindness means?

Of course, kindness is the quality of being kind. But what is kind, then? It’s not the meaning of kind as in Mankind, the concept of humanity or the famous wrestler. But then again, to be kind is to be something to humankind. We know it has a meaning other than something being a kind of a thing, as in a category.

Nonsense aside, we might define kindness as being b, or even tolerant. Sometimes we call kindness kindliness.

Ever wonder about the etymology of the word kind? Where it came from?

Well, there are two definitions of kindness. The first is the one we use to mean classification. That kind came from the Middle English word we still sometimes use today, kin. If something is related to something, like people are kin, then it is of the same kind.

But in the English language, something likely happened with the word that meant “of the same generation or race.” It also later began to broaden to mean “born of a certain nature” or “having an inherent quality.” So if you were born into a certain family or clan you by nature had a feeling of belonging to that clan, and the fondness that goes with. The feeling of “same kind.”

As the Oxford English Dictionary fancifully denotes, kind is, “In accordance with the natural or normal course of things; naturally or predictably arising or resulting from the circumstances.”

So the natural feelings you had for your kind made you disposed to favor them, treat them well. You would behave with tenderness and compassion toward your kind. You were family. You were kin. You were kind. This way of relating to other people ought to be predictable.

Kindness is appropriate. Kindness is what we’re suited to. It is the appropriate, fitting thing to be toward anything else in our category.

So, if we trace the word back, to have kindness is to be benevolent to others as if they are family, part of the same. And isn’t everyone, in spite of all our differences, of the same kind? Humankind? We take it for granted that since we are all of the same species, it is our nature to treat one another as such.

Kindness, then, is supposed to come naturally to us. This is our tribe, people on the other side of the earth, on opposite ends of the political spectrum, from rich penthouses to poor dirt hovels, fans of country and fans or hip hop. We have an innate desire to be kind, but until we see one another as the same kind, this becomes difficult.

We have to see other people as the same kind as us. Then kindness will come easier.

Did you know the word “kind” also comes from the German word for “king”? So let that be another lesson. To be kind to others, what if we treated them as kings, no matter who they are? As it has been said, it isn’t being born of a good pedigree that makes you noble, but behaving with good pedigree.

The world can be so cruel. From nation to nation, cruelty reigns. But when kindness reigns, humans are lifted up to the place of kings, governing the plant like we ought to, acting fairly and mercifully.

To be kind is to show thoughtfulness and sympathy to…humankind (again, not the wrestler Mankind, although we should be kind to him too). What mankind (and womankind, for that matter) needs now, more than ever, is a reminder of our own kind. That takes being kind.

Kind is one of the oldest words in our language. It is therefore one of the oldest concepts. Let’s bring it back.