Kindness is underrated in our world today, but I believe it is a powerful force in an interdependent world. Once we shift our worldview to begin seeing our interrelatedness and connections, kindness reinforces and aligns with interdependence. 

I see kindness as a form of mycelium that exists in the soil of a forest. Mycelium is a fungi network that connects plants and trees to one another to share nutrients and information. This special fungus works similarly to the interstitial tissue we have in our bodies. Interstitial tissue is a connection and transportation system for nutrients among organs, cells, and capillaries that support immune regulation. If both nature and our bodies have processes and structures to support connections in complex and dynamic systems, could the practice of being kind have the same effect on our human social systems?

3 Reasons kindness is important to interdependence

Recently I experienced a random act of kindness. I was waiting in line at a takeout place and as the person ahead of me went to check out, they told the cashier that they wanted to pay for my sandwich too! I had my credit card out, ready to pay for my order, but he persisted with his decision to pay for us both. I didn’t know this person, but their random act made me feel an unexpected moment of gratitude and kindness. Kindness has particular importance when it comes to interdependence, specifically: 

  1. Kindness connects people to each other and grows trust. Just like mycelium, it is an act that flows through the connection we have with others. Kindness creates conditions conducive to trust between each other. The conditions needed for trust to grow and evolve require contact and strengthening the sense of connection we have with each other. These conditions bring us together in a shared moment and over time, these moments end up in trust.
  2. Kindness also facilitates the development of relationships in teams, groups, communities, and societies. When we are kind to each other, something changes inside us. Instead of feeling like we have to protect ourselves from mean or self-serving behavior, it gives us an experience of interconnection that opens us up to the possibility of connection. In an interdependent world, relationships are critical because interdependence means that everyone is connected to all living entities in the world (including the earth)! Connection is a relational concept. When we reach out with kindness, we are supporting our interconnection, not fighting against it.
  3. Kindness works from abundance. Kindness doesn’t have to cost anything other than a predisposition to show up and act with the intent of being kind. Therefore, there are no limits to the expression of kindness. It can happen anywhere, it can happen in one-on-one conversations, it can happen in team meetings, it can happen in family conversations, etc. And over time, kindness becomes a generous act that supports a living system based on generosity.

In nature, old-growth forests, mature prairies, and mature coral reefs are ecosystems that behave with generosity. They are filled with diversity, and it is through these diverse relationships that mutualistic relationships form between species through the sharing of what they have in abundance with each other. It is a resilient and generous system, designed to regenerate. 

Kindness vs. meanness

Being mean to each other creates a different impact. It separates instead of connects, fosters distrust instead of conditions of trust, and it makes us feel like we need to protect and defend ourselves against others. It also reinforces selfish instead of generous behavior.

Our political rhetoric has turned mean, not only during election season in the U.S but as a manifest culture of our political dialogue. When did we choose meanness over kindness? Is it connected to a world view of separation instead of connection? We all have a choice on how we want to live in this world.  I choose kindness!