“The people who have done kindnesses based on a blind idea of goodwill do just as many kindnesses for the evil as for the good. The evil use the kindnesses to do evil things and harm good people. In that case, the benefactors share the responsibility for harming good people…”
– Emanuel Swedenborg
In my own experience, I have seen so many honest and good people fall into this trap: they believe that kindness must be bestowed to everyone in the world, regardless of how that person treats them in return. This approach almost always leads The Kind Person to be burned by someone who takes advantage of their kind heart.
The Kind Person, having been burned for doing something good, gets angry and begins to erect walls and barriers around their kind heart and chooses to be less kind in general.
The Problem With “Random Acts of Kindness”
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is understanding that although everyone is deserving of my love and compassion, not everyone is deserving of my kindness—or the act of using my love and compassion to lift and empower another.
I know what you’re going to say:
“But Ollin: we are all human beings and all of us are, at our base level, good, honest people. If I just believe that everyone is good and honest, like me, then there’s nothing wrong with being kind to everyone, regardless of what they’ve done to me.”
Dear honest and good people: I know that you want to believe that everyone is like you, but they are not. Some people will take advantage of you and abuse and play you for a sap if you let them. Yes: there are genuinely bad and dishonest people in this world who really truly could care less about you. To deny this fact is NOT to live in a more peaceful, compassionate world, it is to live in a delusional world. Trusting people blindly is not being a good spiritual being, it’s just being stupid.
I know I might get a lot of flak for saying that, but I’ve seen way too many kind people fall into the trap of being “overly kind” that I believe this is a real issue that needs to be addressed head on.
How To Avoid Getting Burned When Someone Tries To Take Advantage of Your Kind Heart
Here are the 3 ways you can avoid getting burned when someone tries to take advantage of your kind heart:
1. Practice Discernment
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be kind to everyone: the urge to be kind is a beautiful part of your nature and you should always honor it.
In fact, the problem here doesn’t lie with your true nature: the problem lies with your disregard for protecting that true nature from the onslaught of others who want to damage that true nature.
It’s important to always remember that your kindness should be reserved for people who can respect it, reciprocate it, and use it for good.
Follow these rules when practicing discernment:
- If you’re being kind to someone who continues to disrespect you, despite your continued kindness towards them, please: stop being kind to this person. They do not deserve it.
- If you’re being kind to someone who doesn’t reciprocate your kindness, not because they are incapable of doing so but because they choose not to, then stop being kind to them.
- If you notice that your act of kindness is being used by the other person to carry out bad deeds (i.e., money you let them borrow is only being used to buy weapons or drugs) then your kindness is actually causing harm and not good. It is your responsibility to acknowledge this and to stop offering your kindness to this person so that they may learn that your kindness is not to be used for bad. (In fact, being kind to this person is enabling their bad behavior—which isn’t good for anyone.)
2. Set Clear Boundaries and Always Reinforce Them
People tend to forget that being kind includes being kind to yourself. It makes no sense to be kind to others and then allow others to be unkind to you when you let them disrespect your boundaries.
In order to get familiar with your own personal boundaries, I recommend that you sit down and, in your journal, write down the behavior that others display towards you that causes you to feel hurt, damaged, disrespected, painfully uncomfortable, or just plain unhappy.
Write all these things down and try to see if one of the reasons you are feeling this way is that these people are disrespecting your boundaries. Ask yourself if you can allow yourself to honor your boundaries by telling the people in your life what these boundaries are and how to respect them.
If you’ve already expressed what your boundaries are to these people and they still keep disrespecting them, you may have to reinforce those boundaries by mentioning them out loud, repeatedly, whenever those boundaries are being threatened.
This leads us to:
3. Be Assertive
Being assertive is a great way to scare away those folks who are trying to take advantage of your kindness.
Wanna know the difference between being assertive and just being an a**hole? If what you are requesting is fair and within reason, then you are just being assertive. If what you are requesting is beyond reason and is fundamentally unfair, then you’re just being an a**hole.
A**holes may get their way, but they won’t have anyone’s respect or friendship in the end. On the other hand, assertive people get their way, too, but they manage to retain the respect and friendship of those who matter.
When we assert our authority, power, and strength over another individual using our voice and posture, this sends the subliminal message to the other person that they better back down, or we might gobble them up—just like a lion might roar to a hyena to send the message that he better run or else he’s going to be lunch, we might speak in a louder, deeper tone or puff up our chest to send the message to other people that things might get ugly if our boundaries are disrespected.
It works the other way, too: when we’re not assertive (or when we speak softly and sit in a relaxed posture) then the other person gets the subliminal message that they can gobble us up without any resistance. By not assuming an “assertive stance,” we are essentially communicating to the other person that we’re not going to put up a fight if they disrespect our boundaries.
What subliminal messages am I sending to the people in my life who are taking advantage of my kind heart? Do I raise my voice and bang my fist on the table so they can understand clearly that they’ve crossed a boundary with me? Or do I communicate my objections in a soft voice and a relaxed posture, sending the signal that I don’t really mean what I’m saying, and that they don’t have to take my boundaries seriously?
Being assertive is not just about the words you say: it’s about your posture and the tone of voice you use.
In conclusion: being kind is good but we need to be careful who we offer our kindness to, or we can easily get burned by people looking to take advantage of us.
Instead of offering our kindness to everybody who wants it, and risk getting burned, we can practice discernment, we can set and reinforce our personal boundaries and, finally, we can be more assertive with people who threaten to disrespect those boundaries.
much kind love,
Today’s Courage Exercise
If you’ve been burned after offering up your kind heart to someone who didn’t deserve it, try utilizing the tools outlined in this post to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
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