Many do not realize how conditional our kindness can be until someone challenges our kindness or makes a mistake. Some of us may be perfectly kind to someone for years but once they make a mistake, we resort to being unkind. Others are kind, hoping to receive something back for that kindness.
James and Kerry have been classmates over the past semester and have even participated in group projects together. Although both do not hang out with each other outside of class, they still share jokes and have nice chats during and after class. James and Kerry decided to do a group project together for the final project. Both were contributing and making their deadlines, but towards the end Kerry stopped responding to emails as swiftly. James, concerned, sent her emails reminding her of deadlines. She barely made the deadlines to the point where James became more frustrated. As a result, when James saw her in class he stopped chatting with her so much. Instead he would ask her abruptly about assignments and would not say much else other than that. Kerry would attempt to try and chat with James, but James was not as responsive anymore. For their final presentation both James and Kerry did a good job, even though Kerry did not respond promptly to James emails about meeting to rehearse. After the class, Kerry apologized for her previous behavior. She explained that she had been dealing with a recent breakup from her boyfriend whom she had been in a relationship for several years. She had been doing the best she could to keep up with assignments. James, felt bad for treating her unkindly throughout that time, and realized he should have probably asked her what was going on, rather than being passive aggressive and ignoring her attempts to try and speak with her. If he had shown kindness, he would have been less angry at her throughout their project and would have given her the opportunity to be open about her situation.
Many people deal with situations that are variations of this. Sometimes we see people acting in a manner that is not what we want, and in return we do not show back kindness. This occurs with all types of relationships. We even do this with people we love. Once they start acting in a way that offends, inconveniences or even angers us, we decide to treat that person with less kindness.
I mentioned earlier about how you shouldn’t do kind acts to expect something back. You may know someone who does something nice for others, and is doing it either for praise, recognition or in anticipation of getting something in return.
Years ago, I used to be like that. I did things expecting that people would show the same sincerity back towards me. I would give people gifts, expecting a gift of similar value when my time of celebration came. I would do something nice for others, hoping that one day that it would be reciprocated. I remember being very disappointed when I realized that some people did not return the favors that I gave them or in ways that I felt were of value.
The main mistake I made was doing something nice for the wrong reasons. Sure, I did many of those things with good intentions and that were for the right reasons, but one of the reasons I did those things was because I expected something back for those kind actions. After I realized my error, I learned that I needed to start being kind just for the sake of being kind. Changing that action has made me much more sincere with giving and I hardly ever think about what people have done for me in return.
I will be honest with you. When I typically give to others, I rarely receive something back in return, but that doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m happy to just do something kind and make someone else happy. I’m happy to grant someone a favor and help make their life easier. I’m happy to lend a helping hand and know that my actions helped influence someone’s life positively. That’s the reward that counts. That’s the reward that matters. The reward of simply being kind and being a positive influence on someone’s life is enough for me.
Here are some steps to avoid conditional kindness:
- When you do something kind for someone ask yourself why? Be honest if you are doing it for the wrong reasons. If you are honest with yourself regarding your intentions with others, you can be aware of when you are placing conditions with your kindness.
- If you feel the need to be unkind towards someone you once showed kindness towards, then think about why that is occurring. Did that person hurt you? Did that person offend you? Rather than showing disrespect, show kindness and ask that person why they are treating you differently. If the situation becomes increasingly more hostile then it’s better for you to limit your contact with that person than being rude or hostile in return.
- If someone does not reciprocate your kindness then consider how this makes you feel and how you will handle it? Ask yourself why this happened? For example, if a friend did not give you a gift for your birthday, is it possible they just do not have the finances to do that? If someone you regularly go out of your way for, does not go out of the way for you, why do you think that is? Are they too busy?
- If you are dealing with a situation that is clearly unbalanced, and not for sensible reasons such as lack of finances, time, or other constraints then consider what that means to you. If it really hurts you that the situation is unbalanced then consider trying a few things.
- Bring the situation up with that person. Ask them honestly what is going on since it does hurt your feelings.
- Listen to what they tell you and be understanding to that. People can undergo drastic changes when under stress. For instance, a miscarriage or other traumatic event may cause a close friend to be rude or unkind temporarily. If their reactions become too hostile then give them space. It’s better for you to distance yourself from that than feed a situation which can cause you to be unkind.
- Consider making things more balanced. Maybe make yourself less available or do not be the first person to offer whatever that person needs.
- Consider asking them for something in return. If this is something where you are spending tons of your resources on another person, then there’s nothing wrong with asking if that person can help you out. Be specific too. The person can most likely help you in some way, such as cleaning your house, babysitting, carpooling or whatever you think is easiest.
- If the person is truly testing your patience, then consider limiting your time with them or possibly ending the relationship with them. If you truly cannot find a way to be kind to this person, then you are probably benefiting both yourself and them by keeping contact to a minimum.