To me, cruelty is the worst of human sins. Once we accept that a living creature has feelings and suffers pain, then by knowingly and deliberately inflicting suffering on that creature, we are guilty, whether it be human or animal.
Kindness and a good heart are the foundation for success in this life, progress on the spiritual path, and the fulfillment of our aspirations. Our need for them is not limited to any specific time, place, society, or culture.
I consider myself a good person. And I think people perceive me to be, 'Oh, she's nice,' but being a good person, knowing your strengths and working towards those strengths, and encouraging those around you to do the same, that's a good person.
There are ways in which we can consciously work to develop feelings of love and kindness. For some of us, the most effective way to do so is through religious practice. For others it may be non-religious practices. What is important is that we each make a sincere effort to take our responsibility for each other and for the natural environment we live in seriously.