The Origin of the Word "Kind"
--by timcollardey, posted Apr 20, 2009
What prompted me to make this quest for kindness was realizing in a special moment of wonder where I was standing—upon parched earth that has become the condition called drought where I live in Colorado. I looked up and felt dwarfed by the titanic spruces and pines and aspens that surround my house. They didn’t seem the least bit phased by the fact that a spark or bolt of lightning could sentence their lives to a furious death.
I thought about how unkind and cruel nature can be. Then I wondered, is it nature that’s so unkind or just I who doesn’t really understand? It occurred to me that nature isn’t punishing us or seeking retribution for how we have mistreated the environment, but is simply out of balance from all we have taken and not given back. It’s karmic.
While these thoughts of nature swirled in my head, I decided to revisit the one book that holds so many truths for me—the dictionary. Seems odd, doesn’t it? The dictionary?? You see, I learned a long time ago that every word, like people, has a story. Every word started somewhere in time for reasons that are often buried in the dust of history unrecalled.
So there it was, like discovering an ancestor I never realized before that I was related to. The word “kind” is one of the oldest in the English language, going back some time before the year 900. It originally meant “nature.” Kind = nature! It was like peeling back my skull and exposing my brain to the sun. Never before had I so clearly seen that kindness is natural, of nature.
When we show kindness, especially in the face of cruelty, we are wielding the greatest power in the universe—our groundedness in nature. Being kind to unkind others does two things: it keeps us grounded in our essence and it serves as a reminder to the unkind to return to theirs. It is unnatural to show cruelty and meanness. It causes drought within human hearts and our world.
The psychologist Blair Justice once wrote, "Letting ourselves feel that sense of wonder that surrounds us every single minute is what elevates our hearts beyond a mechanical pump and turns them into instruments of love and kindness." He obviously “gets” it. Return to kindness and replenish your heart. That is our nature. (As Paul Harvey so famously quoted, “Now you know the rest of the story.” Rest in peace, Paul.)
And the same with mankind. Made in the same kind as his creator who is totally loving kindness.
Middle english kinde,
From old english cynd;
Akin to old english cynn (kin)
Perhaps, then, to be kind is to be kin. Why, then, are so many of our kin not kind? Who among us is teaching them, or allowing them to be taught, to be unkind and, thus, banishing them from our kinship?