On Being Kind

“That should teach you not to be so kind-hearted next time.”

That was what one of our close ones said to us recently after the tussle A and I had with the seller of our newly purchased flat. The seller had asked for a month of stay before she moved out of the flat, and we obliged. When the move-out date got nearer, she asked for a few more days of extension, which we gave in to as well. On the day she was to finally move out, she asked for yet another extension. We were forced to say no this time, because we simply had no more room on our end to accommodate that. We had to literally force her out of the flat. A and I gave her an ultimatum, turned up at the flat and made her move all her belongings out of the flat that very day. It was nasty, messy, but we felt it had to be done. Left on her own, we believed she would have needed a few months before we see her move out.

“She’s just taking advantage of your sympathy.”

We have heard it before. We have been told we are too soft-hearted, too naive, too kind. It did get to our heads for a while, making us feel we are indeed too stupid to be taken advantage of. We wondered if we should just be harder on people the next time around. I’m really glad we didn’t turn out to be that way.

I don’t think we are too kind. We get angry with people too. We have felt resentment for others and judged people unfairly as well. Sometimes, we even feel we are not kind enough. Take the flat seller, for instance. I wished that resentment wasn’t the very first emotion that came to me when I saw her text message in the early morning asking for yet another extension, but it was. I wished I was able to put myself in her shoes, but I couldn’t. I’m only glad that I was able to become aware of that negative feeling in time and realised what it was doing to me, and I was able to communicate with her in such a way that I felt was reasonable and at the same time was not putting myself in a difficult position.

I believe that if we can, we should always choose kindness. Whether someone takes advantage of your kindness or not is besides the point. When someone says that I should not let someone take advantage of my sympathy, it’s as though they are saying it’s partly my fault for the situation. But, given another chance, I’d still choose kindness. Because you will never know when your kindness will move someone or change someone’s life for the better, even for a moment. If a person takes advantage of your kindness, it’s on that person, not you. I’d give anything to have that chance of touching someone with kindness, than to worry about getting the short end of the stick.

I want to be clear, though, that being kind doesn’t mean I should keep obliging ad infinitum or take on something way beyond my means. Being kind means that even when someone oversteps the line and keeps taking and taking, you are able to say no, but with compassion, and not deep resentment. How to tell the difference? Soft words and empathy don’t necessarily mean you are soft and weak. You can still stand your ground without being harsh and offending. To me, that’s being compassionate.

So, yes, I will still be kind-hearted next time. Because, how else can we bring more softness to this world if we don’t stop worrying about being kind?

Photo credit: Aki Tolentino 

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