Random Acts of Kindness

Random acts of kindness is one of the positive psychology interventions (PPIs). The goal of performing random acts of kindness is to increase positive affect both for the recipient and the giver.  Research findings report increased happiness and satisfaction for both parties. When used, this intervention can increase self-regard, positive social interactions, and helps develop charitable feelings towards others. Feelings of well-being increase with each act of kindness performed. Such acts include, but are not limited to, preparing a cup of coffee, holding the door open, or babysitting a friend’s children.

Positive relations, a by-product of random acts of kindness, is defined by feelings of affection, intimacy, and empathy between the people involved and by having a warm relationship with the other person (Westerhof & Keyes, 2010; Ryff, 1989). Positive relations play an important role in our lives, building an accepting relationship between parent and child, enhancing close friendships with peers or a trusting relationship with a partner (Roffey, 2012). Positive relations also foster kindness, which means behaving with compassion and performing acts that are selfless. Kindness is a mindset where we place the needs of others before our own interests (Sreenivasan & Weinberger, 2017).

Random Acts of Kindness and Judaism

Where in the Torah do we learn the concept of kindness? Rabbi Simlai explains in Sotah 14a, “The Torah begins with an act of kindness and ends with an act of kindness. It begins with kindness, as it is written (Genesis 2:21), ‘And G-d made for Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them.’ It ends with kindness, as it is written (Deuteronomy 34:6), ‘And he [Moses] was buried in the valley in the land of Moab.’” Here, Torah sages make us aware of the great importance of bestowing kindness by showing the Torah begins and ends with the topic (Introduction to Loving Kindness by the Chofetz Chaim).

The Torah commands us, “And you should love your neighbor as you do yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) What does this mean? Rabbi Akiva is quoted in the Jerusalem Talmud (Nedarim 9:4) as saying, “This is a significant principle in the Torah.” Hillel the Elder, on the other hand, is quoted in the Babylonian Talmud as saying, “That which is despised by you, do not do to your friend. That is the entirety of the Torah.” How can we apply these teachings to our everyday lives? Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Dean of Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, says we should aim to love our friend in the same way we love ourselves by first, finding out what another person needs and then, taking care of those needs. Whatever we ourselves need, we can be sure our friend needs, as well.

Our challenge should be to carry out five random acts of kindness over the coming week. We should seek opportunities to perform acts of kindness for others and watch our world start to change. When we perform random acts of kindness throughout the day and keep a journal to record our feelings and growth throughout the process, we will ultimately increase well-being and positive affect.

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