There is no such thing as kindness. Unless, and until, somebody does something to another human being who can feel an emotion of gratitude and say, ‘that was very kind’. Other than gratitude, it could also elicit admiration, respect, or any other emotion. The behaviour is blind as to what to elicit emotionally. But it is only kindness when there is a behaviour that somebody else, not you, says it is.
So, there is no kindness in abstract. The noun does not exist, other than in our conceptual jungle and vocabulary. There is no little store in the brain full of kindness waiting to get out, no matter how much neurobabble you pull out of that fashion hat. There is no pill of kindness that can be taken. There is no IV injection of kindness. There isn’t even training in kindness or indoctrination. There are behaviours that are kind. It’s the adjective, not the noun.
There is no point banking on ‘having kindness’ (in the culture, for example) as a pre-requisite to be kind. This is a distortion of our thinking that for some reason has become universal. You have to ‘have kindness’ to be kind, honesty to be honest and caring to care, the conventional wisdom say. But this is a post-hoc order of things.
Kindness is what happens after lots of kind acts. The kindness library in your mind does not have any particular ‘kindness essence’ but is full of memories of kind acts that you’ve done, seen, received or imagined.
Acts that are kind create kindness. The behaviours are the parents, the values their children. We’ve got the genealogy upside down.
And what about culture? Culture of (kindness, other values) is all those behaviours multiplied thousands of times; it’s behaviours at a scale and stable. That is why the Viral Change™ Mobilizing Platform starts with the fuel of what we call ‘non negotiable behaviours’, which in some cases (if this is the objective of using the platform) are the translations of a value system that has remained conceptual.
Conceptual discussions are not a waste of time. It’s perfectly legitimate to discuss kindness, to aim at kindness and to declare kindness as a value. But if you want to start an epidemic of kindness (another name for culture change) you don’t work on concepts, but on behaviours. Intellectual and philosophical conversation is one thing, changing the world another.
Values don’t pre-exist. Their behaviours do. Then values are born. Where to start (behavioural parents or conceptual children) is the difference between complete success and colossal failure in cultural change.
In the beginning was the behaviour.