What are your intentions toward others?
Benevolence is a fancy word that means something simple: good intentions toward living beings, including oneself.
This goodwill is present in warmth, friendliness, compassion, ordinary decency, fair play, kindness, altruism, generosity, and love. The benevolent heart leans toward others; it is not neutral or indifferent. Benevolence is the opposite of ill will, coldness, prejudice, cruelty, and aggression. We've all been benevolent, we all know what it's like to wish someone well.
Benevolence is widely praised—from parents telling children to share their toys to saints preaching the Golden Rule—because it has so many benefits:
Of course, this is just a partial list of benefits. Bottom-line, benevolence is good for individuals, relationships, nations, and the world as a whole.
The fact that benevolence is often enlightened self-interest makes it no less warm-hearted and virtuous. And at this time in history when individuals feel increasingly stressed and isolated, when relationships often stand on shaky ground, when international conflicts are fueled by dwindling resources and increasingly lethal weapons, and when humanity is dumping over nine billions tons of carbon each year into the atmosphere (like throwing 5 billion cars a year up into the sky, most of which stay there) - benevolence is not just moral, it's essential.
But easier said than done.
How can we sustain benevolence in ourselves and in our relationships, nations, and world?
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (from Random House in October, 2013; in 4 languages), Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (New Harbinger; in 24 languages), Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time (New Harbinger; in 12 languages), and Mother Nurture: A Mother’s Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships (Penguin). Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and an Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA, his work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, CBC, FoxBusiness, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report, and O Magazine and he has several audio programs with Sounds True. His weekly e-newsletter – Just One Thing – has over 89,000 subscribers, and also appears on Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and other major websites.