Two obviously related qualities are love and kindness. But how exactly are they related? Does love motivate kindness, or do acts of kindness motivate love; are we kind to those that we love, or do we come to love those that we are kind to?
That love motivates kindness is apparent. We give more to those we care about than to the stranger, in fact, much more. We spend huge amounts of time, money, and energy ensuring the welfare of our own children, yet we give only meagre amounts of these same resources to other children.
Equally true, however, is that kindness engenders love. When we genuinely share of ourselves with another, we come to feel increased affection toward him. What is the underlying mechanism at play here?
To answer this question, let us first answer another question: why does an artist feel a stronger connection to his own work than to the work produced by another artist?
Every person has an innate self love. Therefore when a person invests of himself into something, such as expending time, talent, and energy on a painting, he perceives the painting as an extension of his own self, and the natural love he feels for himself naturally extends toward the painting as well. This is also why one comes to feel an increase of affection toward those to whom he displays kindness; for genuine kindness entails planting a portion of one’s self into another which results in one viewing the other as an extension of one’s self; the love felt toward one’s self thus naturally embraces the other as well.
It follows that the relationship between love and kindness is a cyclical one: love engenders kindness; kindness engenders love. If a person wanted to enter this cycle in a given relationship, what would be the best way for him to enter? Should he attempt to initiate the process by cultivating love for the other, or by being kind even though he hardly feels anything for him?
Love is a quality not easily controlled by human will. We do not, and cannot, make a decision to love another and then suddenly feel love strong for him, as though the flow of love is similar to the flow of water from a tap which one can open and close at will. Kindness, however, which is associated with action, is under our direct control; we can be kind to another whenever we choose to be.
Furthermore, even when we do manage to arouse feelings of love and warmth toward another, the feelings may not last, love, then, when the love is strong our kindness will increase, but, when the love declines, so will the kindness. However, control to be kind, one can maintain a relative consistency in behaviour.
Thus, though the love-kindness cycle can be entered via either quality, since kindness is under our control it is more practical to enter through it.