The future of kindness in Australia is very bright, according to social researcher Mark McCrindle, with Covid-19 drawing Aussies to demonstrate their kindness and community mindedness.
Indeed, Australians are most likely to believe we are kinder now than we were 12 months ago (46 per cent), and that we will also be kinder in 12 months’ time (40 per cent).
These findings come from a recent report which used Helga’s Kindness Index, developed by McCrindle and launched in August, to examine the state of kindness in Australia.
While Australia received a positive index score of 74, the study also revealed that many of us are holding back from performing acts of kindness. Barriers Aussies face to being kind include being out of their comfort zone (25 per cent) and not knowing how their kindness will be received (25 per cent).
Social psychologist, author, and social researcher of over 60 years, Hugh Mackay, has lent his support to the project, which aims to help Australians feel happier and more connected and to strengthen their capacity for kindness.
Mr Mackay’s most recent book The Kindness Revolution: How we can restore hope, rebuild trust and inspire optimism was released in May and he shared his knowledge of kindness in two Q&As on Helga’s website.
While our human capacity for kindness is innate, Mr Mackay said, we sometimes need to be reminded we belong to a social species.
“We get distracted, all kinds of things occupy our attention, and we sometimes neglect this capacity we have. But give us an emergency, life threatening illness, relationship breakdown, retrenchment or on a societal scale a bushfire, flood, war or pandemic and watch us revert to our natural state which is to be kind, compassionate, caring and respectful of each other’s needs.”
Mr Mackay said the pandemic and the Black Summer bushfires came as correctives to the “me culture” that had evolved in Australia and across the Western world in the last 25-30 years, and which saw people become obsessed with their own happiness, comfort and wellbeing at the expense of other people.
“We need correctives, and the pandemic and the bushfires have been very important correctives for us. I am hoping that we are going to learn the lessons from this pandemic, as previous generations have learned lessons from wars or depressions or other pandemics, and hang on to these lessons, it would be tragic if we let them go.”
Mr Mackay said he’s hopeful more and more Australians will commit to being kind as their default position, and will also recognise that our common humanity is far more important than their independent identity – and live accordingly.
As New South Wales is reportedly one of the top states (58 per cent) in its love for encouraging others, and its citizens are more likely always or most of the time to go out of their way to encourage other people – there’s a good base to build on. The index also shows New South Wales is the most likely state to be patient (63 per cent) – a quality people could cultivate further during the state’s protracted coronavirus lockdown.
Barriers to being kind
The Kindness Index report reveals that 65 per cent of Aussies who face barriers to being kind perform on average 3.5 fewer acts of kindness each week and that overcoming people’s barriers to acting kindly, could see an additional 2.37 billion acts of kindness each year.
“We are not always kind just because we have the capacity for kindness,” said Mr Mackay. “But I think the discipline is to remind ourselves that we are fully functioning, flourishing, fully-realised human beings when we are behaving kindly.
“When we pull back from that standard and when we allow our nervousness about how our kindness will be received, or some other self-absorbed concern to get in the way, we are actually diminishing our own humanity.”
An offer of kindness may not be well-received or engender a response, Mr Mackay said, but would still show how “we all exist in a kind of shimmering, vibrating web of interconnectedness and interdependency” and help to make the world a better place.
The Kindness Index Report https://helgas.com.au/kindness