Is There a Limit to Kindness?

Be generous. Be kind. Be humble. Be caring. Be considerate. Be polite.

These are all values I’ve learned growing up, but a part of me kind of wishes my parents drilled in other values instead. For example, be strong. Be opinionated. Be proud. Be smart. Be thoughtful.

These were values that I sort of instilled in myself throughout the years after looking at my peers. I noticed that the most successful, and believe it or not, well-liked individuals, were actually the ones who weren’t afraid to be opinionated, strong-willed, stubborn, and yeah–super braggy. Meanwhile, those who were more like me…a bit timid and shy though a perfect embodiment of all the former values…we were largely ignored and overlooked.

Jennifer Kim, a blogger for Psychology Today and Valley Girl With a Brain, talks about the dangers of being too nice, especially in today’s cutthroat society. Kim admits, “People tell us that the best way to achieve this is by being nice to other people: Give compliments, share your food, buy them gifts, etc.” She goes on to explain that in her case, “The strange thing was that even though I did nice things for people, I still rarely felt like anyone genuinely accepted me or that I was building deeper friendships.”

In my experience, this statement rings true. It didn’t seem to matter how nice I was to others. When I actually thought about it, people didn’t really start to want to get to know me until I began voicing my own opinions, caring more about myself, and pulled back from hanging out with them. I dunno, I still think this way of thinking is sort of fucked up.

Even at work, I noticed that the assistants who were treated with the most respect were the ones who were rude, impatient, and complained a lot. Not the ones who were flexible or amenable. Even though people talked so much shit about them behind their back, they would treat those guys with the most respect–give them the promotions and raises.

Dr. Sherry Pagoto, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, theorizes that being too nice, which would technically label you as a people pleaser, comes from one’s fear of being rejected or fear of failure. While most people pleasers are going out of their way to help others though–they often forget their own self-care.

YES, this shit all resonates with me. Dammit! But at the same time, it also deeply confused and disappointed me.

Someone once told me that I was “Nice to a Fault,” and though they were well-meaning, it honestly made me feel like I was being called a pushover or a doormat. Who wants to be a doormat? I mean…maybe, I am. But after they called me that, I kept asking myself, “Is there really a limit to kindness?” SHOULD THERE BE A FUCKING LIMIT TO KINDNESS?

That term went against the values I was taught– and it honestly made me angry. It unraveled what I knew to be right, and twisted it into something negative. But at the same time, the term Nice to a Fault just couldn’t leave my head. I was forced to think about it seriously.

After much pondering and mulling things over, I had to give in. OK yeah, there’s definitely a limit to kindness. However, I’m not going to go and tell someone not to be nice–as long as they’re comfortable with who they are.

This is still related, I swear — but I have a really good friend named Samy. He’s a simple guy. Most of his work experience has been working at restaurants. He has the voice of an angel and big dreams to make it in the music industry. He’s not the biggest or strongest guy, but he’s sassy and you guessed it–kind to a fault.

He’s the type of person who would help a stranger, no questions asked, even if it meant putting his own safety at risk.

I know this about him because I was one of those strangers he helped.

In fact, it was kind of a dangerous choice on his part to help me–because my ex could have really hurt him. The smart decision would have been to stay out of it. I already shared the story of my toxic husband in detail, and I don’t remember if I mentioned Samy in it exactly, but he played an integral role in helping me get out of that situation.

Without getting into too many details, the point is that Samy helped me during a point in my life when I really needed it. Even though he barely even knew me, as a direct result of his kindness, he saved me from a really bad situation. It takes an overly kind person to do this for someone, especially when they aren’t your friend like that, but ever since then–I’ve looked at Samy as a hero.

I guess the moral of the story is not to knock on people who are Nice to a Fault. Yes, there are so, so many risks and dangers that come with being too nice–especially towards those who don’t deserve your kindness. But at the end of the day, you never really know what can happen. You might end up being at the receiving end of their kindness one day, and you’ll be thankful that there are people like this in the world.

That being said — I think I’ll just integrate kindness AND strength into my mindset. ALL OF THOSE VALUES that I mentioned above actually. I think as long as there’s a balance between being kind to others and being kind to yourself….. OK getting distracted. Um OK, thank you for reading my verbal vomit.


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