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Is there such a thing as too much kindness?

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?

silvereyes 8 Mar 12

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yes, but at that point I call it enabling rather than kindness.

I think you nailed it. It is that line hwere good intentions go wrong.


Kindness is not the cause of bad things to happen. It's other people taking advantage of that kindness.

...which can only occur with the kind person's permission


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.

brilliant! & totally my thinking. love thyself first & foremost, or you will not have the genuine love to extend yourself to others.


if the whole world applied "too much" kindness, we would just have a better world🙂


Much kindness is wasted on the wrong people.

Some kind people are attracted to narcissists. They will suck at the marrow of kindness and never return it.

So goes the cycle. I have noticed this in abusive relationships.


Yes there is. my sister loves her animals so much that they suffer really badly rather than being put to sleep and if your too nice to the wrong person they will walk all over you or think you fancy them.

In your sister's case, that isn't being too nice, it is being too selfish. As for the others, is the kind person being too kind, or is it that the people who are walking all over them or assuming that they are being fancied are daft, self-centered pricks?

yes but my sister isn't trying to be selfish because she just isn't like that. you have a point about people taking advantage but it's still because others are too nice as is the people thinking you fancy them. its still by no fault of there own, them being too nice to people who will walk all over them. maybe thats fucking horrible but its the world we live in.


People can be overwhelmed by the showing of too much caring and compassion, and end up feeling smothered by your best intentions


I have not noticed direct consequences. I have, however, seen kindness taken advantage of by unscrupulous people who have nothgin better to do than prey on the kindness and generousity of others.


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. 🙂


Being kind does not mean being a doormat or just trying to get rid of guilt or discomfort


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.


Yes. Me, 2 weeks ago.


Yes. Like releasing the black cab raper in London, so he could rape again. Yes when enabling dangerous behavior in someone.


I think kindness can, in some cases, enable negative behavior. Giving money to someone with a serious drug problem could result in a fatal overdose, for instance. It may be with the best of intentions, but might not be in the person's best interest.

charity isn't necessarily kindness, too true...but I have argued this example so many times over the years....drugs are a good version, but it works with a lot of get out of a drug habit, you often have to hit that rock bottom...that money you give may be that moment of rock bottom that that person needed...and the memory that person has (if they have one) is that someone gave them that money out of might help that push up, instead of the 'I had sex for...' or 'I stole for...' which perpetuates the habit by making you want to forget...I think people who choose not to give because 'it may go to drugs' are really moralizing why not to give to someone else...

@JohnnyThorazine That's why I specified "serious drug problem" to differentiate between the casual user and the one with heavy addiction who's more likely to overdose. But it was only one example. Another might be giving advice that a gay teen should come out to their family because you think it will help smooth out some relationship stress and that the family really already knows, but it backfires and the teen gets disowned. (This isn't hypothetical; columnist Dan Savage gave that advice and it cause all sorts of problems, so he's a lot more cautious now about telling teens to come out. He thought he was doing the teen a genuine service at the time, but caused real harm.)

@resserts this is one of those discussions that has no right or wrong answer and you hope that if you talk about it long enough, a new idea will evolve...haha...oh man, good one about the gay the 90's, there were a lot of gay 13 year old kids living on the street because they came out to their parents...wonder if that has changed much?


No. There is such a thing as investing poorly, though.

Absolutely. Love that answer! Hats off to you!

@Ora_11_11, i wanted to say that! 🙂

@Ora_11_11 I have to humbly admit to learning this in the hardest way possible.

LIKEWISE! Holy buckets!


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.

I really like your brief reply.

@Marine LOL!


There is not however our society looses a level of kindless each generation so now too much kindness appears to be creepy lol


Yes. Too much of anything is just enough.


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.

doesn't sound much like kindness to begin with. rather being-forcibly-exploitedness 😟

@walklightly And it's not just Christianity. I saw Peaceful Warrior and everyone was talking about how great the movie was, so I watched it. I was stunned. This old guy (New Age hype-type) is teaching a young guy supposed wisdom. They get robbed in an alley by a bunch of thugs with guns. They take their wallets and start to walk away.

Then this supposedly wise guy (no pun intended) says to them, 'hey, don't you want our watches?' The thugs turn around with a puzzled look on their faces, come back and take the watches. Then the "wise guy" tells the kid to take off his jacket and give it to them. They end up stripping down to their undergarments.

In reality, they could have been killed. That's a flippin' horrible message to teach young people.

@VictoriaNotes, oh, don't i know! for me not the usual christian religious mumbo-jumbo is the daily challenge for bloodpressure & patience, because it's not in my face where i live. but the so-called new age, spiritual community can do just as hypocritical, narrowminded & outright moronic, excluding you if you don't comply & fit their itchy mold. so gag!


Not if the kindness is genuine. You can tell if someone is truly motivated to be kind.

absolutely my thinking: is it purely coming from the heart?


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)

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