Kindness is Not Weakness
"Good guys finish last." Throughout your years of life experience, you probably have your goodwill been taken advantage of. It is easy to be convinced that it doesn't pay to be nice since that makes us vulnerable. Give an inch and a yard would be demanded.
Only the Strong dares to be Kind
I won't deny that being kind would at times, (1) consume additional effort especially when we go out of our way to execute a kind act/gesture, and (2) put us in a spot where this act can go unappreciated or even taken advantage of. A natural response to such experiences would be to, obviously, react in ways to not allow history to repeat itself.
I think that this belief is rooted in trying to evaluate if an act is "worthwhile" (or not). While this is often not a conscious thinking process, we naturally expect some form of reciprocity for something nice that we do for others. Yet, we know such expectations do lead to disappointments.
This is why I would argue that kindness is a form of strength since the decision was made to be kind despite the subconscious awareness of the potential issues (1 & 2 as stated above) that may follow.
Of course, I am not advocating the use of kindness as a display of strength (which is revolting). I believe that the distinction lies in the intent behind the action.
How not to be misunderstood as weak
While we do not have control over how the other party react to our actions, there are proactive steps that we can take to reduce being perceived as soft.
Be firm and confident Don't second guess yourself. Being kind is a personal decision based on our own sense of morals and ethics. It reflects who we are as a person and that is independent of external judgement. When you feel that it is right to be kind, be kind. This should help you grow your self-confidence as you feel more proud about yourself and not otherwise. There may be people (especially loved ones that would give advice on how to be "smarter" to not be taken advantage of) but a kind intent should always be, in my opinion, celebrated. We waver when we are uncertain if a choice of action is right, and that can show in subtle ways (e.g. masking it with even more acts of kindness at your own expense) as we try to self-rationalise. It is the times that we waver that tempt others as opportunities for exploitation. Let the whole process be something YOU decide is right, and be proud of doing the right thing!
The recipient matters While this may not be a nice thing to say, but not everyone is equally worthy of being kind to. There ARE generally unappreciative and worst, manipulative people who are out there trying to exploit kindness. Be receptive and learn from experience! Steer clear from those who are unworthy of going out of your way to being kind to. While this does not mean being nasty to these people, it just means that until these people show that they are once again worthy of kindness, kindly and firmly (yes, back to point 1.) decline their requests. It is uncomfortable and even aggravating at times but such is your right too.
The unintended signals Most of the time, you are not the problem. But sometimes, we are responsible too. This focuses on "how" kindness is portrayed and less on the intention of being kind. Do you readily offer to help with little regard for your own status? Did you establish yourself as the emotion-trashcan for others to dump their negativity? Sometimes, these are unintended turns of events that evolved from simple acts to routines. This is why point 1 and 2 really matters before we talk about point 3. Be firm and confident in exerting your stand about being kind (e.g. "I would love to help but I am not available to support you this time around. Knowing your capabilities, I am sure you are able to handle this by yourself." or "hey bro, I understand it's tough man but let's not dwell in such negativity too much. It's affecting me too."). The recipient should be able to respect your kind rejection. If not... then, you know the drill (refer to point 2).
In all, I hope that understanding how kindness is NOT weakness and how we can prevent it from appearing so, it can help ENCOURAGE us to be more daring to be kind!
"Good guys finish last, by choice."
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