You’ve probably heard of the term, ‘survival of the fittest’. Most people assume it means that only the fastest or physically strongest people survive, that nature favours big muscles, speed and strength.
In actual fact, that isn’t exactly what the term means. It simply means that the species who is most suited to an environment (i.e. a good fit for it) is more likely to survive in the long term.
For example, a species with thicker skin and lots of hair would more likely survive extreme cold than a species with thin skin and no hair. They would be a better ‘fit’ for the environment and so would more likely thrive there.
Evolutionary biologists now agree that a more accurate term that relates to us, on the whole, is ‘survival of the kindest’.
In fact, it was the feature story of an edition of New Scientist last month. New Scientist is a weekly science magazine that features stories and news on current thought and new breakthroughs in multiple areas of science, including quantum physics, cosmology, psychology, biology, AI, evolution, and much more. I have a subscription.
It turns out that it has been our kindness to each other, our compassion, parents caring for their young, our willingness to share and help each other, that has seen the human race survive through eons.
It wasn’t our physical strength that got us this far, but the strength of our kindness.
In challenging times that lasted hundreds and sometimes thousands of years in the distant past, it was the fact that our species shared food and resources with each other, that they lived and worked together to find solutions to challenges, that ensured we’re here today.
Over time, psychological and physiological consequences of helping behaviours became etched into the human genome, such that kindness feels satisfying and that it’s also good for our mental and physical health. I’ve written a lot about this in my books, ‘The Five Side Effects of Kindness’, ‘The Little Book of Kindness’, and ‘Why Kindness is Good for You’.
Working together, looking out for each other, showing empathy and compassion to those who are suffering, being kind in our words and deeds, is what makes life work.
We all sometimes forget. Let’s face it, life can be challenging at times. But time and experience teaches us that helping one another gets us through challenges. This means offering a hand to those who need it, but also asking for a hand when we’re the ones who need it. The latter can be begin with reaching out and telling a friend, family member or work colleague that you’re struggling.
Like all things, it takes effort to practice the things that work for us. But we improve with practice. I’ve noticed that compassion and kindness have come easier for me through time. I’ve still a long way to go. I might write and speak a bit about kindness but I’m absolutely a work in progress, not an example to follow. I’m continually in awe at the people who are out there, on the ground so to speak, caring for others on a daily basis, making themselves available to those in need.
One final thing. Kindness doesn’t have to be a visible, grand gesture. It’s the small, silent acts that no one sees that sometimes pack the bigger punch. In the grander scheme of things, these are the kindnesses that shape our spirits the most. And in the shaping of our spirits do we become higher versions of ourselves. And that’s when everything we do has more impact.
So on that note, may the subtlety and the strength of your kindness be present in your life today.
Copyright 2022 David R. Hamilton PhD.