The Problem With Kindness

Some of my kids’ friends like to show up unannounced at our house when they are looking for someone to play with. At first it was great, it was summertime and my kids were bored and suddenly there would be someone to hang out with. But soon enough the friends would tell my kids that they didn’t want to be outside anymore and then they would all come in. It created noise and mess inside that I hadn’t planned on but I was still okay with it.

Until early one morning I was standing at the sink in my pyjamas doing dishes and felt a pair of eyes on me. I turned to find one of my kids’ friends had quietly let herself into our house and was just standing in my kitchen and staring at me. I politely said hello and let it go at that. But minutes later she was sitting on my couch complaining, “I’m bored.” I decided not to ask the obvious question, “So why are you here then?”

It was time to set some boundaries around unexpected visits from my kids’ friends.

Now I have a rule that kids who drop by unannounced must stay outside. I don’t feed them anymore (except for freezies on a hot day) and I tell my kids they can’t go out to play at certain times of the day. (It’s getting dark already? Sorry, no, they can’t come out.)

At first I felt like I was being the grumpy old mean mom who was spoiling all of my kids’ fun. But that got me thinking, is it possible to set boundaries and still be considered kind?

problem with kindness

In the last few months I have focused a lot of energy on making an intentional effort to be kind. If you’ve read my post “Why I Choose To Be Kind” you know why I’ve made this decision.

I believe that love is patient and kind. I believe that no act of kindness is ever truly wasted. I believe that it’s important and often necessary to be kind to people who are not being kind to me. But if that was all I ever wrote on kindness then the picture I paint would be woefully incomplete.

That’s because there is a problem with kindness. And it needs to be addressed before anyone, including me, can make a decision in any circumstance to act kindly.

The problem with being kind is that people tend to assume you are weak.

I don’t believe for a second that kindness and weakness are the same thing. In many cases it is the toughest choice you can make. But somehow, the definition of kindness has been broadened to include an entire category of things that are, in fact, weaknesses. This results in the belief that we are choosing to be kind to someone when in reality we have made a different choice entirely.

Here are just a few examples of what kindness isn’t:

Not speaking up when there is something you should say.
Allowing yourself to be taken advantage of.
Saying “yes” to everything.
Forcing yourself to be happy all the time.
Avoiding confrontation at all costs.
Pretending to be someone you’re not.
Avoiding issuing consequences (or discipline).
Not standing up for yourself (or someone else).
Being generous for the sole purpose of receiving a reward.
Not having opinions of your own.
Being a people pleaser.

If you are doing any of these things and calling it kindness, you need to stop. Don’t ever use “kindness” as an excuse to avoid dealing with a problem.

Kindness is the decision to impart grace to someone whether they deserve it or not. It is the ability to choose compassion over judgement. To consider the needs of others before your own. To grieve with those who grieve. To offer help when someone needs it. It is being truthful. It is the choice to value a relationship over the need to be right. The definition of kindness is broad and so it is all of these things and many more.

The difficulties in defining the word often results in a confused mess of misunderstandings and misguided intentions. It doesn’t have to be this way in my life or yours. Instead we should view the lack of a narrow definition as an invitation to see the many opportunities we have to show kindness in our daily lives. There is beauty in the ability to discover countless ways of sharing grace with those who may need it.

So today, again, I have made the decision to be kind.

But I will not be weak.

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