By Alison Climes
Kindness is a currency.
Some people have been privileged with a lot of it – it’s been passed down from their parents, they’ve been enlightened by its power by a favorite teacher, or it seems to simply run in their blood.
Kindness also begets kindness.
When someone does something kind for you, it usually makes you feel a sense of gratitude, and often a desire to pass it on. It can be a simple act for a stranger or a big favor for a close friend. Your act of kindness may go unrecognized, or often more challenging, be unappreciated.
Yesterday, for example, as I was getting out of my car and putting coins into the meter, a parking official was writing a ticket for the car in front of me. “Is it too late?” I asked. The man just looked at me as if he didn’t hear what I had said, although I was standing only a few feet from him. “Did you already write them a ticket, or can I put change in their meter?” I asked again. “Well, then they won’t learn their lesson. It’s a $45 ticket,” he said proudly. “Well, true…” I responded, but lingered to let him know I wanted to help them out. “Alright, it’s almost 5 pm anyway, and this isn’t even my zone, go ahead,” he finally decided, sounding somewhat disappointed. I went on my way to tutoring, and as I returned to my car, I saw the man in front of me getting into his, ticket free. He didn’t know what I had done, but I had a smile on my face. It made ME happy to know that he wouldn’t have to deal with that nuisance of paying a parking ticket.
I’ve slowly been coming to realize though, that when you are showing kindness to a friend or family member and they know you are doing them a favor, it’s hard to not feel resentful when your act is not acknowledged, appreciated or repaid.
So what about kindness to yourself? Instead of doing something to hold it over someone’s head a smug way, what about honoring your needs even if that means saying no to others?
I think as women, or at least in my perspective as a woman, we are taught to “be nice”, to say yes when someone asks us for a favor, or to be willing to drop everything for someone because to not do so would be rude, selfish, or unacceptable. I am one of those people.
I don’t like to say no to others partially because I feel uncomfortable with conflict (although saying no really shouldn’t cause a conflict if that person is aware of and respects your boundaries) and partially because I do like helping people out. I like to think of myself as a kind and compassionate person. But I need to remind myself that just like with money, people will take more than their fair share.
People will abuse your kindness if you let them.
And then I get mad at myself for allowing myself to be taken advantage of. For my naiveté. But it’s all part of the learning process. I’m recognizing that just because I don’t drop everything for one person or I tell them no because it is in my best interest, does not mean I’m not a kind person.
And just because I am choosing to spend my kindness very carefully towards certain people who have taken too much, doesn’t mean I will lose my instinct to want to be kind, and give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove me otherwise. Communicating boundaries and needs are vital to the process though.
Kindness is a currency. Be generous, but spend it wisely.