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Jeruba's avatar

Does anybody really have a kind and forgiving nature?

Asked by Jeruba (47679points) 1 month ago

That’s a phrase we hear in praise of certain people—“a kind and forgiving nature”—but what makes us think it’s just born in them?

How do we know it’s not the product of a lot of determined effort and practice?

If it were natural, wouldn’t we see the trait in little kids? And do we?

 
(This question has nothing to do with cynical, dishonest behavior masquerading as kindness. Many people are genuinely kind, but it didn’t come naturally. They had to learn it, often at a cost.)

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10 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think it’s both. Like, one of the twins was just born with a kind nature. He’s been gentle and sweet from day one. His sister, though, is just mean!
I worry about him. I worry that he’s going to be so disappointed and so hurt by life…..

mazingerz88's avatar

I think yes, some people exist that are naturally kind and naturally forgiving. To the point that others might see them as simply naive. How long they stay that way depends on how harsh the realities of life they get to face.

Zaku's avatar

Yes. Ask a Buddhist, or research “Buddha nature”.

LostInParadise's avatar

I don’t interpret the use of the word “nature” necessarily implies that someone is born with a particular trait.

chyna's avatar

Although I didn’t know her, there are many people who describe Mother Theresa in that manner.

Zaku's avatar

@LostInParadise Born with? In Buddhism doesn’t the soul exist before birth and after many reincarnations? Isn’t the journey of the soul hopefully is to enlightenment to the truth about life, where once free of fear, greed and hate, the soul’s enlightenment, compassion and love and wisdom are clear – not that they were constructed, but revealed, no?

Perhaps a more Hindu mystic view? (In which a person notices that their awareness is not their body or their ego, and in tuning into that, notices that that awareness is who the person really is, and that it also transcends the personal and is felt and experienced to be calm and joyful and loving towards everything.)

LostInParadise's avatar

According to your view, a person’s nature depends on cumulative experience over many lifetimes. It is not strictly encoded in the genes.

Zaku's avatar

I think we’re more than gene encodings, in several ways, though of course genes also determine a great many things, and certainly affect our behavior. So do our culture and upbringing – even the word “kind”, “forgiving” and “nature” all have meanings and connotations specific to our language, culture, upbringing and personal experiences.

But I do also subscribe to the elements of the spiritual traditions I mentioned (and others) which point to a benevolent nature that I think more or less all people have somewhere in their nature, which I have seen emerge even in very disturbed people who have at other times shown atrocious behavior, in ways that I feel do point to a core benevolence in everyone (even if they also have other things going on that usually run them in terrible ways).

josie's avatar

Kindness, and forgiving, are human concepts.
Lots of traits that we regard as uniquely human are developed.

Certainly, deep in the primitive centers of our brains there is still wiring from way before the emergence of Homo sapiens, and sometimes it creates problems.

But the whole point of being human is the ability to be introspective, and to develop those traits that might be recognized as truly human virtues. See above reference to The Buddha.

So if there is a tinge of cynicism in the question, it seems to me to be unfair.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t think they’re just concepts.

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