Synopsis: Kindness as the most important, single factor in love relating; understanding kindness more completely; the how-to’s of communicating love’s kindness; six not usually recognized ways of kindness; the wide-ranging relational and health benefits of kindness; tough kindness and more.
The Most Important Single FactorKindness, felt and showed, is the most important, single factor in keeping a love relationship healthy and working. This is the conclusion of multiple researchers in the area of love relationships. A number of other factors also are extremely important but no other single factor quite compares to the significance of kindness. This is especially true in adult-to-adult marriage type, love relationships. Kindness also is of very high importance in parent-child love, family love, friendship love, healthy self-love, pet love and altruistic love.
The research that shows kindness as the single most important factor appears in studies of over 10,000 subjects in 33 countries. To learn more, check out The Science of Happily Ever After by Dr. Ty Tashiro and the publications of the Gottman Institute.
In my own work with couples facing real love versus false love issues, kindness proved to be the most significant determinant for identifying authentic love from 12 forms of pseudo-love (see our book Real Love Versus False Love).
The Kindness ConclusionIf you want a love relationship to thrive, heal, grow, last, become empowered, be fulfilling or do any other good thing, do this. Earnestly study, learn, practice, improve, model, enjoy and manifest loving kindness in every love relationship frequently. Also consider teaching, promoting, advancing and spreading the knowledge about love’s kindness wherever you can.
Positive Relationship studies and research into healthy, real love show that love’s kindness can be learned, grown and improved starting at about 18 months of age and progressing throughout life. Check out kindness reports and findings at the Positive Psychopedia website.
Kindness Is…Being kind is having and showing a desire to help bring happiness, ease pain, make life more pleasant, help good feelings happen and improve emotional states and the well-being of those targeted for kindness treatment, which can include yourself. Kindness includes being considerate, sympathetic, empathetic, friendly, generous, helpful, warm-hearted, compassionate, gracious, genial, tender and caring.
Behaviorally, kindness has to do with taking benevolent action. This can include acts of assistance, positive surprise, service, rescue, sharing, risk, providing enjoyment and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.
Love’s Kindness Is…Loving kindness is all of the above starting from heartfelt feelings of real lovingness for the target of one’s love (see “Definitions of Love”). Absence of love’s kindness is acting out of only obligation, duty, guilt, propriety, etc.
Communicating Love-Filled KindnessIn face-to-face, personal interactions, kindness often is best expressionally (nonverbally) communicated by kind tones of voice (gentle, soft, caring but also with laughter sharing joy, etc.), kind facial expressions (smiles, looks of concern, etc.), kind gestural expressions (open arms, thumbs up, etc.) kind postural expression (leaning forward, bending toward, etc.) combined with tactile kindness (gentle hand touch, holding, tender hugs, etc.). Active and empathetic good listening behaviors frequently are essential combined with affirmational words indicating care, love connectedness and copasetic feelings (see “Touching With and For Love – a Super Important Love Skill”, “Behaviors That Give Love -- The Basic Core Four”, "Listening with Love”).
Giving advice, presenting instruction, analyzing, offering solutions, etc. may show kindness and care if timed well but otherwise may interfere with the expression of loving kindness (see “Pro Love and Anti-Love Talking”).
Sometimes Unrecognized Behavioral Sets of Love’s KindnessArguably, loving kindness is neither well focused on or broadly comprehended, let alone comprehensively taught in many parts of the world. Therefore, recognizing and identifying larger aspects for conveying love’s kindness is difficult for many. Here are six to consider.
1. It is an act of loving kindness in a relationship to do non-burdening behaviors such as cleaning up after oneself, taking care of a shared environment and any other act which a loved one would be burdened with.
2. It is an act of loving kindness in a relationship to be inclusive by sharing one’s authentic or personal self including physical and emotional feelings, more private thoughts, decision-making processes and idiosyncratic behaviors.
3. It is an act of loving kindness in a relationship to show tolerance for the less pleasant aspects of another and avoid blaming, demeaning, criticizing, etc. those behaviors while being able to lovingly and democratically talk about them.
4. It is an act of loving kindness in a relationship to do actions of assistance, service, helpfulness etc. especially when done with an upbeat spirit and in times of high stress.
5. It is an act of hard to do loving kindness in a relationship to show openness and positive reception of contrary thoughts and expressions of feelings during conflicts and disagreements.
6. It is an act of powerful loving kindness in a relationship to show strong, positive affirmational and celebratory feelings about the achievements, victories and/or good fortune of a loved one -- more than but not excluding kindness shown for suffering.
Relational Benefits of Love Given Via KindnessWords and actions demonstrating kindness, mutually given and received, in a love relationship of any type create and strengthen a sense of well-joined-togetherness as well, or better than, all other types of behavior so far studied. Kindness, well showed, counters and helps heal the destructive effects of anti-love-toxic behaviors such as indifference, cruelty, abusive criticism, etc (see “Destroyers of Love – The 7 Big “D’s” Most Likely to Ruin Your Love Relationships”). Increasing Loving Kindness from adults to children has been shown to achieve significant improvements in academic performance and general cooperativeness along with improvements in digestion and inflammatory disease recovery.
Greater Loving Kindness in couple’s relationships has been correlated with improved mutual responsiveness, sensitivity, affection, positive regard, rapport, goodwill, cooperation, demonstrations of affection, sexuality, happiness, parenting and a host of other positives that make for healthy, happy couples.
Health Benefits of Loving KindnessKindness in love relationships has been shown to activate parts of the brain that process increases in positive mood, sense of connectedness, life satisfaction, optimism, serenity, sense of well-being and improvements in cardiovascular health. For both the giver and the receiver, demonstrations of loving kindness have been related to better general physical health, decreased clogging of arteries and a whopping 44% decrease in premature death.
Regularly showing acts of kindness to others, especially in love relationships but also altruistically to strangers and mild acquaintances, is strongly associated with a vast number of indicators of good physical and mental health characteristics. Programs for daily acts of kindness in an addiction’s treatment regimen significantly lowered relapse rates for example.
People measured as high in kindness, generosity and empathy demonstrate more activity in the posterior superior temporal cortex of the brain, which has been related to consideration and understanding others’ viewpoints, actions and positions, thus producing more successful interpersonal relating.
To learn more about all this, I recommend reading Why Kindness Is Good for You by Dr. David R. Hamilton and Survival of the Nicest by Dr. Stefan Klein.
Tough KindnessSome people think that kindness shows weakness. St. Paul’s second characteristic of real love, “Love is Kind” (which in Paul’s Greek is “cheresteuetai he agape”) is thought to contain the translation concept that love is continuously and steadfastly kind to those who are irritatingly difficult to be kind to. In other words, Paul indicates it takes strength and toughness to do the sort of kindness he is describing. Paul is right. Sometimes it is a tougher but a greater kindness to say “no” than to say “yes”, to kindly deny a request than to grant it, etc. That takes the strength and power of love-filled kindness, as does steadfast love, (no weakness or wimpiness found here).
One More Tiny ThingIf you happen to talk this “Love is Kind” lesson over with someone, and we hope you do, please consider mentioning this site and our free subscription service where anyone can automatically get our regular, wide ranging, mini-love-lessons for FREE.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Love Success Question: Who are you going to target for an act of kindness today and what are you going to do to perform that act? How about tomorrow? How about most days?