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You may have heard it said that a little kindness goes a long way, and this statement couldn’t be more accurate. Picture this – you are having a rough day and feeling pretty beaten up, life seems bleak and as far as your mind is concerned, at that time you are pretty much carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Then out of the blue comes a stranger and they put out a friendly hand in greeting or simply perform a small act of kindness. This immediately has you believing in humanity again. Isn’t that a great feeling? We bet something like that would be bound to put a smile on your face and give you the strength to face your troubles.
If that one act of kindness is enough to lift your spirits, how about little signs sent from the universe or even by fellow humans around the world? The latter has been made possible by globalization brought about by the internet and its accompanying social media. In this article, we introduce to you a few of the signs of kindness to look out for when you need some cheering up.
Universal Symbols of Kindness
There are symbols that only people of a particular culture or religion recognize, and then there are those symbols that anyone across the globe is familiar with. Universal symbols of kindness include the heart sign, the hug emoji, and bluebell flowers.
- The Heart Sign – Recognized since ancient times, the heart symbol has long been in use in different cultures all over the world. Its origin is attributed to the heart being regarded as the center of human emotions and has thus come to represent affection, love, compassion, and kindness.
- The Hug Emoji – Approved in 2015 under Unicode 8.0, the hug emoji is part of the group of short text symbols commonly used online to express emotions without having to articulate them through the use of words. This symbol of a yellow smiley face with open hands is used to show affection as well as to offer consolation. In 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Facebook launched a new hug emoji in the form of the old hug emoji hugging a heart. Their intention was for people to use it to express empathy for one another during the pandemic.
- Bluebells – The use of bluebell flowers (otherwise known as harebells) to symbolize kindness traces back to the Victorian era. Now they are universally known as a symbol of warmth and care.
Religious Symbols of Kindness
Various religions have their own specific representation of kindness. We look at some of them here:
Buddhists show and perceive kindness through various symbols that many in the West do not know the meaning of. Some of these symbols are as follows:
- The Varada Mudra – This is one of the mudras (hand signals) that represent the main aspects of the Adi-Buddha (first Buddha) used in prayer and meditation. Presented by the hanging of the left hand naturally with a front-facing palm and extended fingers, the Varada Mudra is representative of generosity, compassion, and devotion towards the salvation of humans. It is often seen on statues of the Buddha.
- The Parasol – One of the auspicious signs of Buddha, the Parasol is the historical symbol of royalty and protection. It is viewed as a symbol of kindness because it stands for protection from the sun’s heat. The metaphorical meaning of it is protection from suffering, discomfort, and trouble. It symbolizes royalty because in most cultures, having the means to protect oneself from inclement weather. The umbrella’s dome symbolizes wisdom while its skirt stands for compassion.
- The Red Lotus – Buddhist iconography pays respect to the lotus plant that is known to rise from murky waters and flourish to produce a beautiful flower by using the dirty water’s impurities as nourishment. It is believed that the specific color of the flower borne represents a specific quality of the Buddha that those who chance upon it are encouraged to embrace. For instance, when a lotus plant bears a red flower, it’s seen as a representation of love and compassion.
- The Endless Knot – Yet another auspicious sign of Buddha, the endless knot is a representation of various qualities, including the endless cycles, the unification of all that exists, and the coming together of enlightenment, wisdom, and compassion.
- The Stupa Spire – Stupas are monuments that are often used as places of meditation. In general, the stupa spire at the top carries different meanings based on the specific parts of the representation of Buddha’s body. The crown of Buddha specifically represents compassion.
- The Om – This is a set of incantations made during worship, reading of the religious text, and in religious ceremonies. In Tibetan Buddhism, the Om forms the first syllable of ‘Om mani Padme hum,’ a popular mantra associated with compassion.
- The Dagger – Abrahamic traditions believe that the archangel Zadkiel is the cherub in charge of freedom, mercy, and benevolence. Additionally, they believe that Zadkiel was sent by God to Abraham to tell him that he didn’t have to sacrifice his son Isaac. The association of these two beliefs has the archangel’s symbol represented with him holding a dagger, similar to the one Abraham almost used on Isaac. This symbol is viewed as a representation of compassion.
- The Pelican – This strange bird is exclusively used in Christianity to symbolize sacrifice, kindness, and compassion. This strange bird is said to pierce its own breast to provide blood (as was done to Christ) if its chicks are starving. This myth probably arose from the fact that during the breeding season, the birds’ beaks turn a bright red color.
- The Anahata Chakra – Chakras are different points in the human body through which universal energy is believed to flow into a person. Of the primary chakras, the fourth, which is known as the anahata, is located near the heart. Based on the anahata’s proximity to the heart, it is unsurprising that it represents all the positive emotional states, namely love, calmness, balance, empathy, compassion, purity, and kindness.
Tribal and Mythical Symbols of Kindness
Just like with religion, different tribes and civilizations have various representations of kindness. Some of these representations are:
- The Obaatan Awaamu – In West African culture, symbols known as adinkra are usually displayed on structures, artwork, and clothing. Each of these symbols carries a specific deep meaning. One of them, the obaatan awaamu, is usually portrayed as a butterfly and is representative of the comfort, assurance, and relaxation that comes with a mother’s love and embrace. Furthermore, the obaatan awaamu is believed to be capable of giving peace to a troubled soul.
- The Gebo – A Germanic rune, the gebo is believed to represent not only generosity but also an equal relationship between giver and receiver. Additionally, it represents the connection through which a king can share his powers with his subjects.
- The Hringhorni – Believed in Norse mythology to be the greatest ship that ever existed, the Hringhorni was the symbol of Baldur, son of Odin. The ship became a symbol of kindness because Baldur was considered to be the most beautiful and the kindest of all the gods.
- The Scepter – The scepter became a symbol of compassion because it is the companion in the depiction of Clementia, the Roman goddess of clemency, forgiveness, and compassion.
- The Strength Tarot – in the tarot cards, strength is represented by a card with the symbol of a woman stroking a lion. This representation is meant to showcase that even the wildest power can be tamed by strength, love, and compassion.
Animalistic Symbols of Kindness
Some cultures view certain animals as symbols of various qualities. Some of the animals seen to symbolize kindness include:
The White Parrot – The white parrot is seen as a symbol of kindness in East Asia because it’s usually depicted as the companion of Guan Yin, the representation of compassion.
According to legend, Guan Yin was once a girl forced by her father to marry and, upon her refusal, was sent away to a temple whereby the nuns were told to mistreat her so she would relent. Once it became apparent that she was not going to give in to her father’s wishes, men were sent to kill the nuns and bring her back, but she fled away to the fragrant mountains.
Later, when her father fell ill, she anonymously donated one of her eyes and an arm to be used as ingredients for the cure her father needed. When her father, the king, sought her out to thank her for her compassion, she was transformed into the Guan Yi, with the parrot as her faithful companion, hence the symbolism.
The Azure Dragon – In China, the azure dragon symbolizes healing, growth, and harmony. Moreover, being symbols of the Chinese state, they are referred to as “the most compassionate kings”.
The Raven – Raven symbolism is common across cultures, and their depiction can be either positive or negative. However, in Japan, ravens are seen as symbols of compassion mainly because when a raven grows up, it usually helps its parents take care of its younger siblings.
The Koru Aihe – This Maori symbol, which is in the form of a dolphin, is representative of harmony, playfulness, and kindness. The symbol came about as a result of the respect the Maori people have for dolphins, who they believed were manifestations of gods appearing to help sailors steer the treacherous sea.
Based on these symbols, it is obvious that mankind has been in search of kindness since time immemorial. Whether you choose these listed symbols or simply choose to help out someone in need, it is highly recommended that you show compassion. That way, the universe will be sure to reward you with some kindness when you most need it and probably least expect it!
There are many, but Mother Theresa is probably the most well-known in the West. The East would probably regard the Buddha as one too.
Lavender can be used to cleanse a space of negative energy and as a beacon of love. Roses too can be given as an act of kindness or to oneself as an act of self-love. They are said to heal the heart center.