Is anyone too kind?

Wong-Baker Faces Pain Rating Scale is used to communicate pain, but how do we determine if someone is too kind? (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

My daughter and I had an animated discussion regarding the phrase “too kind.”

I’m not talking about a sweeping gesture of “Ah, you are too kind,” acknowledging someone holding open the door. I am bothered hearing someone describe themselves as too kind, pleasant and sweet. I don’t see it as a compliment. I believe people to be kind, which is drastically different than having difficulty setting boundaries.

Without a deep dive into the psychology of limit-setting and being taken advantage of, I feel that being too kind is akin to being a little bit pregnant. You either are or are not pregnant. You are either kind or unkind. Kindness isn’t rated on the Wong-Baker Faces Pain Rating Scale, where the nurse asks you to indicate your pain level. No one asks if an act of kindness is between levels one and 10.

We need to be kind. We also have to take responsibility for our actions. From my encounters, when someone self-proclaims themselves as too kind, it usually means they feel taken advantage of by another person. The “too kind” person performs an act and doesn’t receive the expected results. It can be an endless cycle. I know plenty of people are waiting to take advantage of someone else’s generosity. Keep this in mind. One person’s selfish behavior isn’t “too selfish.” They are just greedy. It’s enough to be kind, but we have produced a kindness sliding scale for some reason. Do we ask our children what level of kindness they reached while at school?

I’ve heard parents tell their children that the bullying, exclusion, or unfulfilled result is directly due to the child’s level of kindness. I’ve never found it helpful to blame unfulfilled expectations on one’s ability to be overly nice. We can recognize our children’s niceness but must realize when boundaries aren’t set. I feel it’s also important to point out that we don’t always know what is going on in someone else’s home. We need to forgive momentary lapses of callousness but be aware of reoccurring signs and patterns.

The attitude of “too much kindness” often bleeds into problematic adulthood. It can lead to disappointment, anxiety, or even abuse if we teach children to always put someone else’s feelings before their own. Please remember I’m not talking about compromise or teaching empathy.

There is a difference between doing something benevolent because a person feels it is right without getting anything in return or performing kindness because they feel obligated. The first act is a core humanitarian value. We can be nice, say no, set boundaries, be honest, and, if necessary, assertive. The second motion can stem from guilt, fear, and rejection.

I hope you aren’t too kind, but always kind enough. I also hope your generosity doesn’t cause you stress or unrealized expectations. I’m just striving to be nice.


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