Is the highly valued trait of kindness and empathy only a good thing? Could it be bad?
Have you ever witnessed negative consequences associated with kindness?
To be a true adult, we must love ourselves. That should be the basis of our kindness to others. Without the basic self-love, are we truly sincere about our "gifts" to others? I've witnessed negative consequences when the giver has not loved themselves first.
At work, being kind and having empathy for others made me seem weak. Work-bullies had no problem with occasional disrespect towards me. I was the new person after all, and they've been there doing the same exact job for hundreds of years. Rude behaviour towards the new people is their "right". It was too easy for co-workers to underestimate me and believe me to be a non-threat that no one needed to be worried about. Some even thought I was stupid just because I had a perky go-getter attitude and smiled a lot. Then in exactly eighteen months time, I got a promotion with a 56%
percent increase in income, the company car for travel, and a travel budget. They realized too late that I was not as stupid as they thought as I swiped that job opportunity out from under their condescending feet, and all while they weren't paying attention to the always-smiling but hard-working, office "idiot". So, is being nice bad? Naaaaaaah.
Too much selflessness is a bad thing. There are just too many things that you can do that would spread you too thin, and many people aren't considerate of that if they need something.
Sam harris points out that this is why proscriptive laws are bad. I can make a law that prohibits you from littering. But if I make you pick up trash every time you're around it, you'd be doing literally nothing else
I've known people who have fallen into depression and/or triggered panic attacks because they were unable to show kindness or help someone in need. I think that may have less to do with being too kind and more to do with upbringing and childhood trama, but it still seems relevant.
Funny this should come up. People tell me I'm generous and altruistic to a fault, and I'll admit I'll give the shirt off my back to a friend who needs it. They also tell me I need to 'assert my boundaries,' but the problem I have with that is that I've no idea where to draw them when it comes to things other than immediate physical space. If I, say, leave friends in a lurch for my own financial stability, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. I couldn't look in the mirror and feel as though I pass my own judgement. I've been left like that before and it was hell. I don't want to put my friends through that. But the situation as it stands is pretty stressful for me.
So, yes, there is such a thing. I'm probably enabling, or something. But I hate seeing people I care about suffer.
Depends on how you define kindness and empathy. If someone is being kind to you it doesn't mean you'll never hear a discouraging word and have total agreement. If someone empathizes with you it doesn't mean they don't hold you responsible for what is legitimately your personal responsibility.
I learned this lesson from, of all people, a divorce lawyer. I was going through my divorce from my first wife, who was profoundly mentally ill, and was agonizing over whether I was being fair and compassionate enough. I don't recall the exact issue at hand, but I sought a second opinion from another lawyer. He listened patiently to me and then said something that turned on multipe light bulbs for me.
"Look", he said, "you know elderly people who are sweet and wise and approachable and you know elderly people who are cranky and crochety and would as soon bop you over the head with their cane as look at you. Who wouldn't want an excuse to be an asshole -- but I know which kind of elderly person I would want to be."
"Similarly", he continued, "you need to separate your wife's illness from her character. Sure, she's mentally ill. Sure, her thinking is disordered. But that doesn't mean she has to be an asshole. In this particular matter, she's being selfish and unreasonable. And she'd be that way even if she weren't mentally ill. You need to defend your legitimate interests and quit hand-wringing about how she might react to that. Even if she's mentally ill, some things are just too bad and she'll have to suck it up like everyone else. Stop infantalizing and enabling her. You're being plenty kind considering the circumstances."
It was one of those "duh" moments for me. I am forever grateful to this guy for his wisdom and his not taking advantage of me in a vulnerable moment by setting me down the wrong path.
Ever since then I've tried to apply this lesson, in raising my children, relating to my partners, my collegues ... having compassion and empathy is not being a wuss. It is simply being able to understand how others experience things but that doesn't mean you take on their emotional state and become porous over it. It just allows you to step outside yourself and make better judgments, it doesn't absolve the person your empathizing with of one iota of their personal responsibility.
Sometimes. Other commenters here have shared various reasons why, but I'll throw in my 2 cents. For example, Christianity teaches that you should turn the other cheek and offer the other. It teaches that you should give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, you're not to demand it back. If they take your coat, you are to offer other articles of clothing, too. ( Luke 6:29-30 )
This kind of indoctrinated kindness sends the message that it's righteous to be a doormat and abused.
Peoples defenses go up if you are too nice. When I was younger the girls I would date would say your a nice guy. Never had a repeat date, until I learned to add a tad of meanness into my demeanor. Think that this is most likely ingrained at a young age a stern warning from a parent. On a subliminal level people equate comfort with discipline.
Not that I can remember. I think when tentatively offering a kindness its sort of important to remember it may not be what the recipient wants & putting someone in the position of having to accept a kindness they are not ready for, or willing to take on board is a bit counter to good intentions. I think gently offering and seeing what happens next might be useful. (I have known people to take me over completely and that is a hard one to deal with)