Is There a Difference Between Kindness and Generosity?
Giving, not Receiving, Makes for Kind and Generous People
We’ve heard it many times before. This person is kind. That person is generous. But, what do these terms mean and what is the relationship between them? What is their role in ethical decision-making?
Kindness is generally thought of as the quality of being friendly, considerate and generous. A kind person considers the feelings of others, tries to help them and avoids actions that do harm. Affection, empathy and giving to others are qualities of a kind person.
Kindness is also considered a virtue. It is an excellence of character that drives ethical decisions. People who are kind act that way not for any reward or even recognition but because it is the right way to behave and the way a person wishes others would act towards them.
Kind acts include doing favors for others with no expectation of the other returning the favor. Kind people help others in need. An important aspect of kindness is random acts of kindness where a good act is done for another at the spur of the moment. Paying it forward is also a kind act with the hope that those for whom the act is done will return the favor by doing something kind for another person. If everyone paid it forward, society would be a lot kinder and we could bring back civility to society.
Generosity refers to someone’s willingness to give help or money, especially more than would be expected. A generous person gives of their time freely and doesn’t expect the recipient to do the same towards them. It is also a virtue because generous people think about others and how they can improve the lives of others thereby enhancing the well-being of themselves and other people.
Both kindness and generosity are virtues we should try to cultivate. Kind and generous people are altruistic. They will go out of their way to help others. Kind people are also generous but generous people are not always kind. For example, a generous person may give a lot of money to support charities but be a scoundrel in other aspects of life.
Why be kind? It all goes back to The Golden Rule to treat others as you wish they would treat you. Who wouldn’t want the casual acquaintance, friends, family and neighbors to do kind acts for them?
Kind people will be there for us when we need help. Imagine you’re at work and find out your child is sick. The care giver suggests you take her to the doctor. A kind co-worker would offer to cover for you and do whatever work is expected of you.
Generous people help others in need whether by monetary support or giving freely of their time, which is how kindness and generosity intersect.
The kind people I know have certain characteristics in common as follows.
- When they ask, “How are you”? they mean it. It’s not just an expression to break the ice.
- They always have something nice to say about others. If you’re like me, you remember your parents saying: If you don’t have anything nice to say about another person, say nothing.
- They are willing to step in and help out whenever needed; no questions asked; no favors expected in return.
- They have a friendly disposition. They are not argumentative or judgmental.
- They are generally good people; they act kindly because that is the right way to be and characteristic of an ethical person.
Generous people I know also have certain characteristics:
- They support community activities by giving of their time and money.
- They don’t need explanations when others ask for help; they help others because they care about them and their well-being.
- They will help others on the job even if it means more work for themselves: more time or effort on the job.
- They give of themselves not for any reward but because it is the right (ethical) thing to do.
Think of your friends and family who are kind and generous. What do they do that makes you feel that way about them? Share your ideas by commenting on this blog or sending me a message at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on June 20, 2019. Visit Steve’s website and sign up for his newsletter. Follow him on Facebook and “Like” his page.