Why Kindness Has a Ripple Effect
Kindness is a skill that we can learn overtime.
Posted May 28, 2021 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan
Have you ever launched a rock into a still body of water? The impact of the rock creates a ripple effect across the entire pond, until those ripples reach the edge of the water. It can be a beautiful experience, and it also illustrates how our actions affect other people. When we display love and kindness to others, that feeling ripples out to people in our inner circle and perhaps beyond it. The same logic also applies to hate or anger.
We have a dangerous tendency to think that our actions only affect the people that we direct them to, but I believe the impact of our actions extends out further than we may ever know. Because of this, it’s important that we begin being more thoughtful about our actions and words.
Let’s think about this on a global level. For example, when someone commits a mass shooting, the families directly impacted are devastated, but many people beyond those families are impacted by those murders too. The same reasoning applies to acts of kindness and love. For example, when we see Mother Teresa reaching out to the poorest people with love and compassion, we feel that love ourselves.
Love can reach so many different people, making it a powerful force in the world. Hate has the same effect. I believe that the world would be a better place if we put a greater emphasis on learning to love and show kindness to others instead of leading with our anger. But we are a diverse species with different upbringings and beliefs. We can't always control what others do, but we have power over our actions and contribute our own ripples into the world. After we recognize this, the question becomes whether we want to contribute anger and hate, or love and kindness. I choose the latter.
Spreading love and kindness not only has positive effects on others but also on ourselves. I personally feel my best when I help others and I feel my worst when I’ve made someone upset. Some people may feel a sense of momentary relief when they throw a rock of hate into the world, but that feeling usually morphs into shame and anger towards oneself eventually. The same logic applies when we throw kindness into the world. But instead of shame and anger towards ourselves, we’ll feel thankfulness and compassion.
I believe that kindness is a skill and is something we decide to put out into the world every day. The most difficult part of expressing love and kindness to others is when the other person doesn’t deserve it. Even in those moments when anger feels overpowering, I still believe that kindness should prevail. And when that isn’t possible, because there will be times when your anger overpowers anything else, I recommend walking away. Leaving the conversation can help stop those ripples of hate from going out into the world.
Many years ago I went on vacation on the east coast. The mother of a friend of mine also lives on the east coast and I knew through my friend that she was lonely. I decided to go visit her while on vacation and keep her company for a few hours. I enjoyed spending time with her, but then I went back to my vacation and didn’t think much of it. Years later, my friend told me that his mother had shared how important that visit was to her and that the connection we made impacted her.
I’m not sharing this example to be braggadocious, but rather using it to illustrate that we don’t always know the impact that our actions have on others. I had no idea that my visit would help my friend’s mother, but I let my kindness guide my decisions that day, and as a result, love and connection rippled out into the world.
Letting love and kindness guide my decisions creates a great deal of happiness in my heart. When I do things for others, I don’t need to know the effects of my actions necessarily because doing the action is enough for me. My heart feels full when I create happiness for others. On the opposite end of the spectrum, my heart doesn't feel fulfilled when I display anger and hate. I believe that hate hurts our world, while kindness makes our world more beautiful.
I want to challenge you to choose a day or a week to be especially kind to others. This could mean complimenting strangers, being extra thankful to people who help you throughout your day, or asking how someone’s day is going and really listening. We are presented with many opportunities throughout the day to make a positive impact. I urge you to lead with kindness and love, and to not look for a response from that kindness, but to simply share it. Kindness is like perfume. You get to enjoy it, but the people around you can enjoy it too. After a day or a week, you might even start to notice how your actions affect the people around you.
In my profession, there have been countless times I’ve heard that someone was considering taking their own life and they changed their mind because of someone else’s compassion. We don’t always know the impact our actions have on others. And now that we understand what we choose to do or say creates ripples through the pond of life, imagine the impact we could have if we choose kindness over hate.
It’s important that we take care of ourselves as well when we show so much compassion for others. I do believe that we’re only able to radiate love and kindness in the world when we feel that same love and kindness towards ourselves. This may look like ordering from our favorite takeout spot after a long day, spending time in nature, or doing absolutely nothing for an afternoon. We’re only able to pass that positivity off to others when our own energy is replenished.
Kindness is a skill that we can learn overtime. But it’s most important that we learn to speak to ourselves with love and compassion. When we love ourselves, we’re then able to love others. And when we let this love and kindness guide our decisions, I believe that the world we participate in will become more beautiful.