Someone once told me that being kind to others is a great weapon against depression. Be good to others and you’ll feel better yourself. There’s truth to that. But I’ve also discovered that kindness must be delivered in blunt and unpleasant forms sometimes.
My idea of kindness was always to be nice to people and do things to help them feel better. A lot of the time that was good enough. But there are always those who take advantage of it. They keep leaning on you do do things for them. In some cases, they’ll return your kindness with meanness. At that end of the spectrum, you run the risk of being a slave to the person you’re trying to help.
In those cases, my instinct has usually been to get pissed and sever ties. But over time, I’ve learned that kindness has something in common with a lot of charitable acts: If you keep doing for people, they never learn to do for themselves. They just learn to remain dependent on others and continue to drop verbal poison.
I’ve tried to be the guy that frustrated friends, relatives and co-workers can dump on. But that doesn’t help them get beyond the stuff that makes them miserable. Better to help them learn how to deal things.
Maybe that means telling them matter-of-factly that the way they do their job isn’t working, and then suggest ideas for doing the job more effectively. Or that their method for dealing with a difficult family member isn’t working.
If I were miserable in my work and the root of the problem was my own lousy planning or lack of understanding, I’d much rather have someone tell me that so I can do something about it. Otherwise, all I learn to do is keep dumping on people.
This is something I still have to work on. Telling someone to go screw is a lot more satisfying sometimes than guiding them through the fog. But it’s a satisfaction that doesn’t last. Then you feel like shit.
I’d rather be the useful sort of kind friend than the enabling sort.