Kindness and a regard for others are at the very foundation of the spiritual practice and life of every major world religion. While some verses of the Quran can be taken out of context to give the appearance of calling for violence and cruel practices, some Bible verses can also be taken out of context and made to appear equally cruel and violent. Remember Deuteronomy tells us to stone (to death) women who are not virgins on their wedding day, which would mean almost all American women, including most sitting in pews. Lest we think premarital sex is somehow new to the world, most of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were likely not virgins on their wedding day either. There is a reason for the old phrase: ‘shotgun marriage.’ The Bible also calls for genocide at times or calls for raping and enslaving enemy women and girls, yet very few Christians believe these verses are meant to be followed today. So I urge caution in condemning religions we ourselves are not well versed in, and encourage readers to avoid receiving much of our information about other religions from second-hand sources that may be biased. Have a question about Islam? Ask an Imam. Have a question about Christianity? Ask a Christian pastor or priest. Judaism? Ask a Rabbi. What do Sikhs believe? Ask one. Most people are happy to talk with you about their religion. Just ask the question in an inquisitive way free from attacks so as to avoid putting the other person immediately on the defensive. Try to understand the other person’s perspective and don’t go in with an agenda other than to seek understanding. You may find many sincere adherents to other faiths this way and will discover that there are many good people who worship differently than you.
As the Dalai Lama has stated, “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.”
Let us review some quotes from Christianity and other world religions on kindness:
Ephesians 4:32 tells Christians to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Colossians 3:12 says to “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
Just about every Christian’s favorite Bible quote on kindness is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
How is this not anything but being kind? Philippians 2:2-3 gives more instruction on kindness:
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
The Bible goes on to list kindness as one of the nine traits considered to be the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.”
Speaking of kind acts, Jesus said “I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”
And of course, we are all familiar with the golden rule. Here in Luke 6:31-35 Jesus calls us to not only practice the golden rule towards friends and family but even to our enemies.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”
When Jesus said we are to love our neighbor as ourself, he was actually quoting the Torah (Leviticus 19:18 and 19:34). A great deal of Jewish law and many of Judaism’s 600+commandments deal with how to treat others in a fair and kind manner. In fact, the Jewish concept of chesed is based on the idea of grace and loving-kindness and is a concept of great importance in Judaism. The word chesed is most closely associated with kindness and love, and is said by many Jews to be the primary virtue. It is such an important value that the Rabbi Simon the Just said “The world rests upon three things: Torah, service to God, and bestowing kindness” (Pirkei Avot 1:2). And the Talmud states “Deeds of kindness are equal in weight to all the commandments.” ~The Talmud
According to the Jewish Canon (and the Christian ‘Old Testament’ in Zechariah 7:9)
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another”
In Micah 6:8 of the Jewish Canon (Christian ‘Old Testament’): “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Islam also speaks frequently of kindness, with the word “kindness” appearing 39 times in the Quran. Here are a few examples:
“And serve Allah. Ascribe no thing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents, and unto near kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and unto the neighbor who is of kin (unto you) and the neighbor who is not of kin, and the fellow-traveller and the wayfarer and (the slaves) whom your right hands possess. Lo! Allah loveth not such as are proud and boastful.”
(An-Nisa, Chapter 4, Verse 36)
Lo! Allah enjoineth justice and kindness, and giving to kinsfolk, and forbiddeth lewdness and abomination and wickedness. He exhorteth you in order that ye may take heed.
(An-Nahl, Chapter 16, Verse 90)
“Shall I not tell you who will be forbidden from the Fire? It will be forbidden for every gentle, soft-hearted and kind person.” – Prophet Muhammad (as reported by Tirmidh)
“Do not think little of any good deed, even if it is just greeting your brother with a smile.” – Prophet Muhammad (as reported in Sahih Muslim)
The Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “God is kind and likes kindness in all things.“ - Rihadh us-Saleheen, Volume 1:633.
The Prophet Muhammad said: “Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.” – Imam Bukhari’s Book of Muslim Manners
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has written and spoken at length on compassion and kindness, and said, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
“Since we desire the true happiness that is brought about by a calm mind, and such peace of mind arises only from having a compassionate attitude, we need to make a concerted effort to develop compassion.” – Dalai Lama
“The key to genuine happiness is in our hands. To think this way is to discover the essential values of kindness, brotherly love and altruism. The more clearly we see the benefits of these values, the more we will seek to reject anything that opposes them; in this way we will be able to bring about inner transformation.”. – Dalai Lama
Quotes from Buddhism on kindness include:
“Fashion your life as a garland of beautiful deeds.” – Buddha
“When words are both true and kind, they can change the world.” – Buddha
“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” – Buddha
“To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue… gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.” -Confucius
“Hatred, jealousy and excessive attachment cause suffering and agitation. I feel compassion can help us overcome these disturbances and let us return to a calm state of mind. Compassion is not just being kind to your friend. That involves attachment because it is based on expectation. Compassion is when you do something good without any expectations – based on realizing that ‘the other person is also just like me’.” – Dalai Lama
And of course, the words of Gandhi are filled with exhortations to practice grace and kindness towards others.
“The word ‘criminal’ should be taboo from our dictionary, or we are all criminals. “Those of you that are without sin cast the first stone.” And no one was found to dare cast the first stone at the sinning harlot. As a jailer once said, all are criminals in secret….let them therefore be good companions. I know this is easier said than done. And that is exactly what the Gita and as a matter of fact all religions enjoin upon us to do.” — Gandhi
“It is not non-violence if we love merely those that love us. It is non-violence only when we love those that hate us. I know how difficult it is to follow this grand law of love. But are not all great and good things difficult to do?” – Gandhi