12 Ways to Be Secretly Kind

Do the little things.

All my friends scattered except one. She waited until I came to, then pulled me out of the ditch.

She followed me home and told my parents what happened — I was in shock. The break had gone through my radius and my ulna. My arm was a noodle. I thought they’d have to amputate it.

The next thing I remember is doctors in the hallway, talking about nerve damage. Later that weekend, we finally came home. I saw my bike. My dad said my friend must’ve brought it back.

Nobody saw her do it, and nobody told her thanks for basically saving my arm. She’d been secretly kind.

Secret kindness is the best kind. It doesn’t ask for compliments or attention. It doesn’t want gratitude. It just does what you need it to. I’ve been thinking about secret kindness a lot lately.


In reality, there’s no such thing as a selfless act.

Everything we do has some kind of selfish motive — even if it’s just some sense of inner balance you’ve done the right thing. So if we can’t be selfless, secretly kind is a good second option.

Here are some ways to be secretly kind:


1. Figure out what someone needs.

A professor I know lost all of her books in a house fire a few years back. She missed her books more than her own clothes, even her own bed. “I spent thousands of dollars on them,” she said.

She didn’t have to say another word. The next day, a book drive mysteriously appeared in the middle of campus.

Gradually, it filled up.

Online fundraisers generated enough cash for a few nights at a hotel, rent, new clothes, food. It made her cry.

Nobody took credit. The book drive and online fundraisers just happened. Most of the donations were anonymous. This is real kindness in action. It doesn’t make someone ask.

It listens, observes, and gives.

2. Stop worrying about being conned.

Years back, a woman begged me to buy her some baby formula. She was in tears. I had no way of knowing if she was telling the truth.

I didn’t have any cash. But there was an ATM at the end of the block. So I walked over and withdrew $40.

She hugged me.

Later, a friend said he was positive she’d been lying. He laughed at me. So I thought for a minute and told him: I could live with the possibility of losing $40. I couldn’t live with letting a baby go hungry.

Kind people aren’t naive. They know that sometimes their kindness makes them an easy target. They just don’t care.

3. Give someone space when they need it.

It’s easy to smother someone with kindness. You get caught up with thinking about what you’d want in their shoes, instead of paying attention to them. You want to be there for them. But sometimes people don’t want you.

They want to be alone with their pain, their grief, their anger. Give that to them. Solitude counts as a gift.

4. Don’t even say you expect nothing in return.

Everyone says kindness is its own reward, even if they don’t mean it. We all hope that our kindness comes back around.

But there’s no way to know.

You can’t play calculus with kindness. There’s no master equation that tells you if you’ve given more than you received, or vice versa.

Kind people don’t expect a return on investment. They don’t even say it. It’s an unspoken agreement. They leave it implied.

5. Help when it’s not convenient.

Being kind is easy when you want to be. When you don’t, it’s harder — and worth more. Help even when you’re tired, frustrated, or you had plans that night. That’s a mark of real kindness.

Help someone you disagree with. Help someone you don’t like that much, even if they barely say thank you.

You don’t have to be sugary sweet about it.

Just help.

Real kindness might require you to give up something you wanted— and you won’t even get acknowledged for it. You don’t always get to choose when to be kind. We call it a sacrifice.

6. Help at the right time.

Sometimes you’ll want to help but can’t, or you don’t know how. That’s when you can hold back a minute. It’s better to give the right help later than the wrong help right now.

Kindness has a busy schedule. You have to be flexible.

We have a way of forcing help on people when they’re not ready. Giving help when someone doesn’t want it is the opposite of kindness.

7. Don’t try to keep proof.

Kindness doesn’t come with a receipt. Nobody has to be around to see what you did. You shouldn’t worry whether you’ve done enough. A kind person knows they’ll never be finished.

It will never be “enough.”

Some people try to list off all the kind things they’ve done, but it’s better to lose count. What’s the point of trying to remember every single time you bought someone a sandwich, or donated somewhere?

Kind people will always want to do more, and they’ll be right.

8. Don’t play favorites.

Kind people help who they can, when they can. They don’t reserve their help for friends or favors later.

They don’t just help one group of people. They help their supposed enemies too, especially when they’re down.

Kind people give quarter — no excuses.

9. Don’t let yourself feel morally superior.

Kind people don’t ride around on a horse, judging everyone. They don’t constantly compare their kindness to others’. They know someone out there is always doing a little more.

They just do what they can here and now, and try to create a world where everyone steps up a little.

10. Do exactly what someone asks, not more or less.

Back when I worked in restaurants, one of my managers sent half the kitchen staff home and then got angry when we fell behind. He said he would “pitch in” to help us get caught up.

Five minutes later, he was gone.

It taught me a valuable lesson. Promising help isn’t kind. Doing half of a job also isn’t kind. It’s fraud.

Sometimes doing more than what someone asked falls into the same sin bin. Either way, you’re not respecting what the person wants. Do what they ask, then see if they need more.

11. Do the little things.

Some of the best things you can do for people fall right into your lap. For a teacher like me it’s things like writing glowing recommendation letters, being flexible with deadlines, giving second chances, and steering clear of assumptions about my students.

It’s typing up memos and walking around forms to keep someone from getting expelled who doesn’t deserve it.

Remembering their names counts for a lot.

Most of us don’t get huge opportunities to be incredibly kind. That’s not the point. You have to be kind in little ways every single day. That’s how kindness works best, by piling up.

12. Only stand up for someone when they ask you.

Most people don’t need you to be a martyr for them. And yet, that’s what a lot of us fantasize about.

They think kindness is a one-off.

It might really fill your ego up to tell someone off on someone else’s behalf, especially if you share a mutual nemesis.

But this is selfish.

Making a fuss on someone else’s behalf puts that person in an awkward position. It presumes to know what they want, and in the end it strips options away from them and removes them from control. You might be free from consequences, but they might not.

Kindness is offering to stand up for someone. But usually they want your support in more subtle ways.


You don’t have to have fairy wings to be a kind person. You don’t need to sit around a campfire singing and holding hands. We’ve been there. It didn’t work out very well.

We’re running low on kindness right now.

There’s a lot of people out there who think they can be cruel and get away with it. But you can’t. We don’t know if kindness really comes back around, but we know cruelty stains you forever.

Source : Medium