Or “How To Be Kind And Wise At The Same Time”
I’m writing this as a follow on from a conversation with my friend Irene, which was sparked by “STOP Caring What Others Think (So Much)”
I used to have many illusions about kindness. Turns out it isn’t all about “free hugs” and “helping old ladies across the road” …
The easiest way to publish this is simply put our (Irene and I’s) conversation on the “front page”. For me this isn’t any different from the comments – both are potentially readable by any monkey with a computer and an internet connection … and we all know there’s billions of people with IQ around the same as a monkey attached to the world wide web … in fact in many cases I’d hazard a guess the monkey is actually smarter … but that’s just my opinion, obviously 🙂
Also saves me time, which is a precious commodity at the moment …
Very well roared Don 😀
It should not be so difficult to behave good and there are no need to be rude, not at all 😉
🙂 not in most civilised situations, people can and often do behave with respect towards each other even if they do disagree …
Yes and it is always possible to act kind, if we really wish to.
Very much, with the “but” it’s easier with some than others 🙂
I agree Don, some act like trolls or bullies to ask for problems…
I’ve seen it personally, and yes they do. There are many documented personality disorders such as narcissism, sociopathy, psychopathy etc, and probably kindness for those people is best left to professionally trained and paid people – psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. In other cultures they may have religious or spiritual figures who’re able to help. Untrained and unprepared people are probably just going to get hurt in one way or another. Personally I give toxically disordered personalities a wide berth if at all possible !
Kindness is possible in any situation, but like a doctor would refuse to treat a patient if she or he was at risk in the situation, kindness is a choice, not a “set in stone” obligation.
So there’s kindness, and then there’s kindness tempered with wisdom.
And lest we forget the cliche – “sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind”, which I see many circumstances where this is applicable. Which could open up the conversation – “how to define what is an act of kindness ?” … alongside with “who decides what’s a kind act and what’s not ?”
You should write a post about that Don and I would like to reblog it 😀
I think that you have a good view at this and would like to read more.
I had a clever coach who helped me through some of my illusions … and yes I was thinking about blogging about it, now I probably will 🙂
- Kindness is and should always be a choice on the part of the giver. A forced act of kindness isn’t real, authentic or genuine, that’s not kindness, the receiver knows this as does the giver.
- Kindness isn’t an obligation, or a right or privilege to be expected by others. That’s power, control or tyranny.
- Kindness we all have the right to be safe whilst carrying out. Doctors carry out acts of kindness every single day, all across the world, but we wouldn’t expect them to do so in circumstances they may get inured or killed.
- Kindness SHOULD (probably) be withdrawn in situations that would cause the giver harm. Disordered personalities may best be served by paid professionals, the rest of us may not have the required skill or circumstances to be of help or service.
- Kindness isn’t the same as charity, and not all charity is a good thing. Giving money to someone may or may not be a kindness to the receiver. For instance a genuine beggar who can’t make a living doing anything else, perhaps he’s lost both legs, might be an act of kindness. A lazy beggar who’s not really homeless or poor, or in need, is just a burden on his or her society, a parasite. Helping this beggar is just potentially encouraging them to lie and be lazy.
- Kindness also can follow the cliche – “sometimes you have to cruel to be kind”. For example – a parent that gets annoyed with their child playing with an electrical socket, and scolds the child – this is an act of love, of caring about the child’s health and welfare. The scolding may prevent the child from harming itself – which is very kind indeed.
- Acts of discipline can be (and are often) kind – As a scuba instructor, there are situations where we have to be very forceful, abrupt, take immediate direct action and what may seem “unkind”. We aren’t cruel people, entirely the opposite, paramount in our mind is the safety of our students (and our own safety), and such actions are always taken to enforce safety. The student might subjectively feel the instructor was “being unkind”, BUT the instructor will always have a real safety reason they were acting on.
For me, the blanket statement “it is always possible to act kind, if we really wish to”, whilst true, it’s possible, should by tempered with using kindness in a wise and healthy way. As a concious choice because we genuinely want to help someone who needs us. After all tomorrow, it could be you that’s the one in need, so without kindness, it’d be a horrible world to live in.
AND to be clear – kindness isn’t just “talking in a warm and sympathetic tone”, “free hugs” or “helping old ladies across the road”. In fact, quite harsh acts can save a person’s life – these are potentially just as kind, possibly arguably more, especially if the person gets to keep their life or limb as a result. I would much prefer someone pushed me onto the floor than let me get run over by a vehicle, for instance.
The key is in the intent of the kind act, which should be a genuine concern for the other, and a genuine desire to be of service. The act itself can take many forms, from gentle and subtle to firm and direct, depending on the context and circumstances.
Lastly I’d offer that kindness, the same as charity should start at home. “at home” to me means in myself, as in “home is where the heart is”. So kindness should start with and in oneself.
Be kind to yourself. You will probably find kind acts towards others follow automatically.
(apologies for any typos, I’m a little time poor at the moment ! … doing my best is all)
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61 thoughts on “When “Cruelty” IS Kind, And Charity Isn’t a Kindness”
A very interesting take on kindness, several points of view – the kindness of a parent preventing harm for example. I think I’ve tended to focus on Random Acts of Kindness myself – trying to simply be “kind” daily – but of my free will.
That said, in terms of random acts – I don’t think kindness and/or a random act of kindness should need to explained. I wrote about an experience in my blog where my kindness was received negatively and I was told it wasn’t explained properly. Sad state of things if you ask me, but I also partly inline with your post I think that the recipient must be open to kindness to receive it.
Agreed, very much … it’s not just the recipient of the kind act, it’s also the observers, who may have a subjective experience of whether it’s a kind act or not … at the end of the day, if good intentions where present in oneself, then that’s what’s most important …
We do have to be aware that others don’t necessarily share the same values as us … and others perceiving or spining a kind act we carried out, may just be an indicator that those other people aren’t aligned with us, and may not be suitable as friends or companions … or in a minority of cases, it could be that we need to change our own thinking and perception …
Lech Dharma’s comments I found very succinct on this post, might be worth reading his thoughts too 🙂
Thanks for replying. I think one of the things that resonated with the adverse reaction was Lech’s comment about “no good deed…”
In terms of my practice, I’m likely kinder to my friends and family, though most of my RAOKs involve strangers. So as you say, we never know what values they may have.
Again enjoyed reading your thought provoking post – it’s something I strive for in mine.
You’re welcome 🙂
Some excellent points, Don.
One of the cornerstones of American Conservative philosophy is the concept of “intelligent compassion”—as opposed to “bleeding heart (thought-less, reactionary) compassion.” From a cynical (but often valid) point of view, comes the expression “No good deed goes unpunished.”
“Kindness”–I believe–is also like that: Although, it is noble, moral—and Christ-like—to practice kindness on a daily basis (or as the opportunity presents itself), it is also important and moral to be kind to one’s self. The practice of kindness should be tempered with wisdom, experience, and a modicum of self-interest. [There IS an important difference between self-interest and selfishness, but that’s another topic]
“Intelligent compassion” is teaching a man to fish, rather than simply giving him a fish. If a man is starving to death, giving him one of your fish is an act of kindness; however, a greater act of kindness would be to ALSO spend the time to teach him how to fish. Additionally, if you ONLY have ONE fish—-and a family to feed—giving away your one fish to someone that doesn’t want to fish is not being kind to yourself or your family.
Lech, very well said, next time I should probably ask you to write it – you’ve said everything in a fraction of the words !
I like the explanation of “No good deed goes unpunished.” which makes more sense to me now … although I think it’s overly cynical, there is a VERY useful wisdom within it 🙂
The teach a man to fish – used to be where “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind” is now on my blog 🙂
“Lech, very well said, next time I should probably ask you to write it – you’ve said everything in a fraction of the words”
In the words of Isaac Newton (more or less): If I have been able to see further than most men, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants. I merely put a personal twist on what YOU and others had ALREADY written. 😉
Like April, I am saddled with a neurological condition (generalized anxiety disorder) that often challenges MY capacity in being “the best Lech I can be.” My condition is a form of “mental illness”….because the often-pervasive imbalance of neurotransmitters in my brain affects my thinking and behavior.
However, there ARE individuals with other mental illnesses that I avoid like the plague; because they are too unpredictable in their behavior. Often, by offering a kindness to someone like that, it unnecessarily puts one in harm’s way. The trick, I think, is learning to recognize—AND HEED—the red flags of severe mental illness when people inadvertently wave them. 😉
Totally Lech … and thanks, compliments are appreciated, just do my best is all 🙂
I tend to trust my gut feel on people, not always right, but it’s often surprisingly accurate … alarm bells do ring sometimes …
Reblogged this on Moral Value Story.
I agree, Don. Though sometimes it’s difficult to make the determinations you mention with beggars. The obvious is easy but there are some street people who may be there for reasons beyond their control…lost job, abuse, family breakup, etc. Like you, I don’t agree with enabling those who are simply there because they want to be there, but without knowing their back story how do you not offer a kindness in those situations?
It is best to have a job opportunity. Isn’t it, George? Even I wish for a job opportunity.
I agree. That would solve problems for many though not for all. Some choose not to work.
That is the problem.
@George – Agreed, I usually go with my guy feel based on past experiences, and circumstantially whether the person seems genuine or not. Obviously how much money I have at that moment is a factor too. Friends in London, told me to buy them a cup of tea or a sandwich, you find out pretty quickly from the disappointed look on their face if they are genuine or not. Genuinely desperate people are generally grateful for genuinely kind and helpful acts.
@Yoshiko – Some don’t have jobs, or money, or a home, so genuine compassion might be worthy there. There are others who play with people’s heart strings in order to do fraud basically, which is a criminal act – this is what george was saying 🙂
I do the same thing you do, Don. I buy them something to eat and see how they react. What I do after that is is easier to determine.
You’re a good kid George, and I’m sure you know not to get suckered into “schemes” of the unsavoury 🙂
LOL…no one has called me a kid in some time. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
You’re welcome George … “you’re as old as you feel” springs to mind 🙂
I agree with all that you and Irene said. I was just wondering what your definition of disordered personalities is. Are you speaking of the severely mentally ill?
Wait, I re-read your post and you do give a definition and I hope that I am interpreting it correctly.
Thanks … and wondering the why behind the question ?
In order to answer the question I’d need to know what you mean, exactly, by “severely mentally ill” and “disordered personalities” – neither expression I used in the writing.
Your 4th bullet point “Disordered personalities may best be served by paid professionals, the rest of us may not have the required skill or circumstances to be of help or service”.
As far as severely mentally ill, that is my term when you were referring to narcissism, sociopathy, psychopathy.
In one of your responses to Irene, You stated that you give “toxic disordered personalities a wide berth….”
There are varying degrees of mental illness. Many are managed with professional therapy and medication. I’m not being a troll, I just happen to suffer from major depressive disorder, and there are days that aren’t so great for me. One person can smile or say hello to me, which I consider kindness, and it could make a huge impact on my day. I won’t bite, honestly. 😀
I’m not an expert in mental disorders, but a sociopath or a psychopath, as well as a narcissistic personality type are the mentally ill who have something wrong which causes them to disregard laws, tend to be violent, don’t really care if they hurt others–no remorse. This is not the case with all mental disorders.
@April – I’ve added my standard disclaimer to the piece, which is now PUBLICLY visible, and draw your attention to the following sentences – “It’s not intended to offend or debate serious, it’s purely creative writing” and “opinions are not meant as a factual account”. My apologies it slipped my mind when posting, I should be more diligent, my bad. I DON’T EVER WRITE SERIOUSLY, ALL MY WRITING IS ALWAYS CREATIVE WRITING, EVEN IN A TECHNICAL OR SERIOUS CONTEXT. I write mostly for enjoyment, not for “being taken seriously”.
I personally have friends who suffer from things like depression. Provided they are not going to or likely to cause harm to me or my loved ones, then I have no issue with these people being part of my life. I do KIND acts for them and they do KIND acts for me. We’re friends and I don’t see them as “ill”, they are just a person to me, who may have times they are struggling with. Kindness may be or may not be something I choose to exercise, as and when I see fit.
However someone who is likely to cause physical, mental, financial or emotional harm (or abuse) to me or my loved ones I will continue to give a wide berth to, and defend myself against should that be necessary. People who do such things suffer from personality disorders or they wouldn’t do them. My overall understanding is it’s an empathy problem, the conscience is “broken”. Causes are COMPLEX and my understanding is that such problems need skilled and highly trained professionals to treat, and in some cases perhaps cure.
Also, the post wasn’t written “to you” personally, or about you personally. You is a general “you” not a specific “you”.
Getting lost in the definition and semantics detracts somewhat from the point – which is that kindness is a good thing, but needs to be tempered with a little wisdom …
It’s also a little bit of a waste of my time discussing language semantics ( which I have almost zero interest in ) and would be better served blogging which is why I do the blog.
My sympathies on your depression, and here’s a smile from me to you 😀 … I don’t bite either, but am firm when I need to be.
okay I got it, I understand your writing, I know you weren’t directing your comments to me. I may be sensitive, but I’m not that sensitive.
it doesn’t matter because I didn’t want to create a debate, offend, bore, or stray from the intended topic.
The first time I read the post, I focused on particular points. The second time I read it I understood what you were saying. My last comment was in response to you. Please accept my apology for straying off topic.
Oh, and I don’t need sympathy for my depression. It’s a disease, I have it managed. I live a normal life treating others as I would like to be treated. I also reserve the right to show kindness.
Alls well then April 🙂 and of course, apology accepted, it’s no problem, glad we cleared it up.
You might want to read Lech’s comments on this post. He has a “generalized anxiety disorder”. AND also summed up very nicely what I was saying in the post.
Seriously, I understood the context of your post–i strayed. You were precise and I agree with 100% of what you said. Cheers to you 😀
OK, alls well 🙂 … time for me to sleep now, it’s late here.
After reading your post again, I understood which type of personality disorders you considered “toxic”. I agree with you.
Oh, absolutely! Great post.
You hit something very important here Don and I agree. Thanks for the post 😀
You’re welcome, and thanks for the inspiration, which you are, have been and hopefully will continue to be 🙂
Thank you too Don. Friends are great to have, specially the real ones 😀
True that Irene … True friends are rare and precious 🙂
Reblogged this on IreneDesign2011 and commented:
DonCharisma has something important to say, as many can learn from. Read more here…
Some interesting thoughts there. I just try to treat people as I’d like to be treated myself. And kindness is like a circle – if you’re kind to someone they’ll learn to be kind to others, but people who are mistreated in life and treated unfairly won’t want to be kind to anyone, as they haven’t experienced it themselves.
I think being a kind person just comes from within. You either care or you don’t.
“I think being a kind person just comes from within.” … very much agreed 🙂
Some of the points you raised were very interesting though. I mean, sometimes I’m “kind” to the point it could almost be damaging to myself – not quite, but I do feel I pander to people too much and worry about other peoples feelings more than my own.
And sometimes I think no-one is really kind and we all do it for other, selfish reasons such as self-gratification, to make us feel like we’ve made a difference. Who knows! But interesting points none the less 🙂
Agreed, kindness isn’t as simple as it might seem on the surface. AND the world is full of illusion and trickery.
Being true to yourself is priority number one, and then I think the rest falls into place when we’re happy and content …
Obsessive altruism I don’t think is healthy can leave the giver exhausted and nothing left “for themselves” …
And obviously there’s the cynical angle, best to be aware of it, but not become a pessimist as a consequence … there is good in the world, there are selfless acts and people, and not everyone is a selfish self-indulgent sociopath 🙂
Emmakwall, I can resonate with you in this
Because I help others until to the point they cross over my boundaries. In the end, my plight is miserable condition. Worst than everyone.
Oh no I am so sorry to hear that, you must try to always put yourself first, in a lot of respects.
I hope people at least appreciate your kindness and selfless acts. I hope you are okay!
@emmakwall – very much agreed …
@Yoshiko – it’s great that you help people, no one could deny that, but do please make sure you’re OK … if you’re not OK, then you can’t help others, and this is why “self-care” is so important !
Well said Don! 🙂
Thanks Emma, do my best 🙂
You do! 🙂
Now I am trying to be okay though feeling miserable due to realizing by being taken advantage.
@Yoshiko – OR there’s the possibility of being happy that you learned something, which you can now stop the same from happening in the future 🙂
Though I treat it as mistakes through learning to comfort myself, it is so painful so I can not be happy.
Hope you’re feeling better soon Yoshiko, I don’t know what else to say that’d be helpful 🙂
🙂 thanks, Don. Inside I am exploding now though I do not explode it out. I explode it to God and realize my stupidity.
Don’t beat yourself up too much … it’ll pass soon I’m sure 🙂
At least you have realised and can hopefully change things a bit now and put yourself first? I hope you are feeling okay today!
Thanks, Emma 🙂 I feel better now after I let out my frustrations to a friend.
Good I’m glad 🙂
And you’re welcome, any time!
🙂 🙂 🙂
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂