Kindness isn't kindness when it comes with strings attached.
Do you ever find yourself doing something nice for someone—a stranger or someone you know—only to not get any kind of acknowledgement back in return, affecting your happiness? I know I have, and I'm gonna take a chance of epic proportions that you have too.
Feel free to email me if this has never happened to you. Either way, I'm still going to share a recent experience a client had that made her quite angry.
She was in Office Depot and one of the employees dropped something while stocking a shelf. My client—oh heck, let's call her Sue—picked it up and gave it back to the employee. Not a thank you, not even a glance in Sue's direction. He just took it from her and continued on with his work as though Sue wasn't even there.
This upset her so much that she stormed out of the store. In fact, it ruined the majority of her day and all she could think about as she explained to me was how rude people have become. How no one has manners anymore. How it's just not worth being kind or doing anything nice for someone.
Once she was finished I had to dig a little. I mean, it's my job, right? You know, to get under people's skin and annoy them with another possibility other than the one they're so committed to. Helping them see their frustrating circumstance from a different perspective. Maybe even eliminate the circumstance from showing up over and over again.
The answer is, yes, it is my job. And so I pulled out my shovel and started digging.
Question #1 – "Do you find people ignoring your kind gestures often?"
Answer #1 – "Yes! 99% of the time. That's why it's so frustrating!"
Question #2 – "Is it possible that any of those people could have been having a really bad day or just received some heart breaking news and their mind was so far away from the present moment that they could barely take in what you did for them?"
Answer #2 – "Yes, it's possible." (Silence for inner thinking) "Now that you said this, I get it. But everyone? All the time? That I doubt. I mean, this literally happens to me more times than I can count."
Question #3 – "So if you believe that everyone who ignores your kind gestures couldn't be having a bad day, is it possible, that your belief that people are rude, is what keeps that rude behavior showing up on your radar screen?"
Answer #3 – Long pause. "Yeah, I see how this belief could be creating this for me."
Now I'm deeply appreciating Sue for her honesty and willingness to bring it back to herself because we've been through the idea of creating things in her life she doesn't want with other situations.
But I wasn't quite ready to put the shovel down.
Question #4 – "Is it possible that what you perceive as your kindness isn't coming from as pure of a place as you'd like to believe it is and it's disguised as something else?
Answer #4 – Long pause followed by a quiet, "Yes." More silence then, "I definitely need people to acknowledge what I've done no matter how small it is. If they don't, I feel really crappy inside and my day is ruined."
With that answer, a much bigger conversation took place that I don't need to continue on with here.
Sue's belief and experience isn't very different from a lot of people's. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that when most people aren't acknowledged for a kind gesture, no matter how small, it'll have them thinking not very nice things about the person on the receiving end.
Now you certainly may not have as strong of a reaction as Sue did, but if you've found yourself even slightly upset because someone ignored your kindness consider these two things:
- It can be an indication that the gift of kindness comes with strings attached. And when strings are attached it eliminates the truth of kindness.
- The gesture now becomes about you and the other person is simply there to help put the attention back on yourself.
Something to keep in mind if you find yourself relating to #1 and/or #2, you can always choose again. In other words, at every moment of your life, you get to choose a new thought that brings you to a place of peace. And with that new thought the external experience is seen with new eyes.
When you show kindness to someone and you feel good inside, no matter what does or doesn't come back, you automatically receive kindness in return just by how it makes you feel. When you give kindness to others you're also giving it to yourself, by the mere fact, we're all one.
"To give and not expect return,
that is what lies at the heart of love."
~ Source unknown