The other day, I wrote an article about what helps me avoid having days where I don't know what to write about.
Toward the end of the article, I wrote about helping other people:
Inevitably, you'll run into people you'll help and they won't do the same for you.
People aren't under any obligations to return the favors and sometimes, this is just a part of the journey of content creation.
Lower your expectations and help people anyway.
The last sentence in the excerpt spoke out to another writer, Catherine Duchesne, who follows me.
Here's what she said:
What she wrote struck a chord with me, and I sent her a pretty lengthy response in return.
That's when I felt inspired to write an article to expand on what she and I talked about, and here we are.
The mistake that muffles magnanimity
There were two things Catherine said that resonated with my core:
The first one is:
I've been disappointed quite a few times in my life already, helping people out but getting nothing in return (sometimes maybe even the opposite).
The second one is:
Although it's been hurtful at times I catch myself doing it over and over again, because that's just me. I like to help people out. I love to see others happy.
The first thing she said reminds me of my childhood, which was basically one long story of me getting the short end of the stick when I didn't deserve it.
I feel like a broken record with how much I talk about my difficult upbringing, but I can't blame myself for being able to relate to things through my own experiences.
The second thing she said makes me think of my own pain that I've endured as a consequence of helping people in spite of being hurt by others, especially when I was younger.
So when I was replying to Catherine in another comment, I felt inspired to tell her about a concept that took me a while to learn and realize:
Never regret being a good person to the wrong people.
And it is this concept that sits at the core of this article.
I've been here a million times myself and I know why you might be tempted to forfeit kindness.
I know the things you tell yourself:
- "I was such a fool for being nice to that guy. What did I think being nice to him would do?"
- "She's such a bitch. Why did I think about being nice to her to begin with?"
- "I went out of my way to help them and they just spat on me in return. I wasted my time and energy for nothing."
- "I feel so weak for being nice to them. I should become a bully instead so that nobody can take advantage of me ever again."
- "I'm going to turn off my kindness so that I'm never vulnerable to the wrong people ever again."
I know the kind of thoughts you live through when you get burned by someone you were nice to, or someone you just helped out.
I've gone through phases in my life where I felt like shutting down my kindness so that no one could ever hurt me again.
And I'm here to tell you now that closing off your heart is a mistake.
It's not your fault, and here's why
You might think you're to blame for giving the wrong person a chance, but you're not.
Now, I'm loyal to the truth, and the truth is that the world isn't totally bad.
But it's got people in it who prey on kindness and will take your kindness and your help for granted and rip you to shreds.
Is it your fault that people like that exist?
And sometimes, by chance or by factors beyond your control, you're thrust into situations where you have to interact with these people.
Maybe you accidentally bump into them on the street.
Maybe you have to work with them at work.
Either way, if you're authentically kind and helpful or if you make a conscious effort to be kind, you're doing a great job.
However they choose to respond to that is on them, not on you.
You can't control what other people do – You can only control what you do.
A lot of people will respond to your kindness with kindness, and it's a win-win.
Some people will take your kindness and throw mud back in your face, but that's not your fault.
Being kind to the wrong people is an inevitable experience, and I wouldn't encourage you to let those instances snuff out your light.
It's part of the job of being a decent person.
I'm not saying you have to constantly give yourself to people who are rude and take advantage of you. That's mentally taxing and it will drain you.
Don't give to people who only take.
Just remember that you're not weak for being kind to the wrong people.
You're not stupid for making the choice to help someone who's ungrateful.
You didn't make a mistake by being kind in a cruel world.
Keep on doing your thing and don't let the Negative Nancies slow you down.
Do they need it the most?
Sometimes, there's an idea that floats around when we talk about being kind to the "wrong" people.
The idea is basically that you should give love and help to the people who are the most spiteful and hateful because they're the ones who need it the most.
They're the ones who have been hurt the most, and they need the most kindness and help we can offer.
Here's how I personally operate, and this is not what I’d necessarily endorse.
If I'm kind to someone when I meet them for the first time and I help them out with something, and they respond with bitterness and negativity, there's a good chance I'm not going out of my way to help them again.
First impressions mean a lot to me, and if I give no reason for someone to treat me disrespectfully and they do so anyway, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth that's hard to get rid of.
I don't necessarily encourage you to operate in the same manner, and you should know that I operate this way largely because my patience for unfair treatment wore extremely thin from a young age.
Maybe you have more patience and forgiveness in your heart, in which case, more power to you.
Regardless of which path you choose, just know that it's not a bad thing to enforce boundaries.
This is coming from someone who's:
- Been hurt a lot in the past by others and
- Yet, never took it out on someone who was completely uninvolved in producing the pain.
I have empathy for hurt people, but what I don't really tolerate is when hurt people hurt those who have no responsibility or connection to what hurt them in the first place.
This doesn't mean I'll start being disrespectful or hurtful to the wrong people, but I won't interact with them the way I would with those who also give back and are decent.
Like I said, this is just how I personally operate and how I feel about the matter.
What you do is up to you.
Everyone has a responsibility to fight off their inner demons and stave off their negativity.
But if you do it in a way that tears down others, I suggest you get back to the drawing board.