Kind people grow up generally influenced by their parents and immediate circle. Whether it’s by inheriting the values of kindness and generosity of spirit, or by their own inherent nature, despite their surroundings.
From the earliest moments of interaction with other types of people, their nature is assaulted. This can be direct, where their kindness is attacked, ridiculed or taken advantage of. It can also be indirectly, by experiencing the harsh nature of others. They will ask, “Why do they need to behave like that? Why can’t they just be nice?”
The underlying reasons for other behaviours can be complex. Whether it’s a nasty, aggressive or indifferent underlying nature – or the product of circumstance/nurturing influence. The arguments to support the theories behind not-so-kind behaviour go wider and deeper than their kind counterparts. Why? Well that’s an interesting question.
Maybe it’s because the standard narrative we tell ourselves is that people are generally nice and good. So any deviation from this means that “something has gone wrong”. And whether it’s a selfless, genuine wish to help, or a holier than thou busybody with a sledgehammer, the notion is that there must be a reason, from which a solution can be found and the person set back on the straight and narrow.
Alternatively there may be an inherent balance of nature in all of us. And the kind people just happen to have managed to shift the balance to the positive, keeping their own jealousies and darker nature in check. So those who appear cruel, violent and/or aggressive have either chosen or are victims of a prevailing imbalance towards the negative. With this, comes again the notion that something can be done to restore the balance back to the positive side.
Then there is the value of consequences. If the result of good, kind behaviour is peace of mind, equity before your eyes and fairness, then that would seem to be the virtuous circle we are all looking for. However, if good behaviour brings bad results, what’s the point? More persuasively, if trampling over others get you the rewards with no bad outcomes, then why not?
Loss of faith can bring a dramatic change in behaviour. Not just in religious faith – the faith that parents, teachers, leaders are held in often drives good behaviour because we want to please to impress, to emulate what we perceive to be right. If that faith is shattered then it takes a very strong individual not to become disillusioned. Cut free of dutiful ties, the search is on for new boundaries.
So – what are kind people to do? Resign themselves to a lifetime of being taken advantage of? Of being the perennial good old, reliable type? Content themselves with virtue being its own reward, whilst watching the less virtuous ones grab fistfuls of fun, favour and financial gain? When framed in that way, it is tempting to see the kind people as mugs, suckers, the ones who get continually overlooked, downtrodden, out of pocket, luck and season.
Is it possible that there is a diminution of kind people as one generation succeeds the last? Certainly accusations of entitlement have been made about Generation Y (also known as Millennials). Their alleged lack of patience for the good things in life without first putting in the hard work has been attacked by previous generations. Not an inherently unkind state of mind, but certainly less considerate – on both sides.
I like to think of myself generally as one of the kind people. Do I get taken advantage of? Occasionally, but it usually only happens once. The next time a known freeloader comes my way, I step aside and let them find a new schmuck. I’ve learned that ‘No’ can just be ‘No’ – without a supporting spiel about why not.
I also genuinely believe that the alkaline nature of kindness will always prevail in the end. When I listen to the too-cool-for-school, achingly hip types pouring scorn and contempt over those they perceive to be lesser types, I know that level of acid will eventually poison their own well. That sourness among surly saps is fun for a while – it brings the reassurance of one’s own cleverness and reinforces the idea that the sneering ones are at the top of the social tree.
But eventually they will want love. They will want affection and belonging. And they won’t want to continually have their sharpest wits on charge to keep it. That’s where they will find that the vitriol repels those who can give genuine love. That’s where they will find that they need to put their claws away and discover their own kindness to be peacefully free.
And that’s where they will find me and my kind. Patiently waiting for them to learn the virtue of kindness, which we already know to be true.
[A version of this blog by the same author was previously published]