[Note: I first posted this blog six years ago. In this age of the pandemic, economic collapse, unemployment, racism and bigotry of many kinds, and the run-up to the November election, the midah of kindness is particularly important.]
I am a collector of quotations on every conceivable theme. During the month of Elul (preceding the High Holidays) each year I revisit my ever-expanding collection with particular focus on the midot, the moral and ethical virtues that are Judaism’s foundational values.
The virtue of loving-kindness (Hebrew – chesed) is one such midah, and one I learned early in my life by example from my father (z’l) who taught my brother and me to “always be kind.” When our father died so long ago, this was a lesson I took deeply to heart not only for its own sake, but because by being kind (I like to think) I become worthy to be his son. I try and emulate his kindness in everyone I encounter.
I have in my collection pages and pages of quotations on the theme of kindness. I offer below a few of them:
When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.
-Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.
A thoughtful act or a kind word may pass in a moment, but the warmth and care behind it stay in the heart forever.
Always be kind!
The best portions of a good person’s life are little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.
You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Be kind because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than to try to be a little kinder.
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.
The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.
Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.
I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
-Étienne de Grellet du Mabillier
For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.