Kindness isn’t earned.

As you may or may not know, I’m a rabid denizen of Pinterest (check out my boards here!) and one of my favorite things to do is pin encouraging quotes. I look at them for pick-me-ups on down days, and I look for new ones when I’m feeling good. Like this one!

But one theme I’ve noticed in a lot of popular quotes is the idea that kindness or respect has to be earned by the other person; that after a certain point you can stop being nice. After all, if they’re “fake” or mean to you, shouldn’t you return the favor?

This bugs me. Like, a ton.

Since when does someone have to earn kindness? Why do they need to prove themselves to you in order to experience your good attitude?

I’m not saying that everyone should smile all the time and be super sweet to everyone no matter what and never respond to insults or slurs. But I think everyone would be happier if we simply gave the other person the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe that friend started ignoring your calls because her brother is sick and she’s focused on helping him get better. Or maybe her mobile plan is running out of minutes. Or she’s super swamped at work. Or any one of a thousand reasons that are not “she hates you and is disrespecting you.”

On the flip side, maybe she’s ignoring your calls because she doesn’t want to hang out with you. And that sucks! But just because they’re dropping you as a buddy doesn’t mean you have to get nasty. There’s no need for that.

Just like your mood should not dictate your manners, the actions of others shouldn’t dictate your own actions. As a wise man has told me (*ahem* Dad), you cannot control what happens, you can only control your reaction. Wouldn’t it be better if that reaction was one of love and understanding?

In short, being kind is not something that anyone else can choose for you. It is something that you choose, regardless of their actions.

What do you do when it’s tough to be kind?

6 thoughts on “Kindness isn’t earned.

  1. Courtney 01/26/2015 / 12:35 pm

    I’ve noticed that too… I had a friend that constantly posted all kinds of inspirational quotes but she never actually followed them and was actually quite nasty. But then again, she posted things that indicated others weren’t worthy of her time unless they treated her like a goddess or whatever… I don’t talk to her anymore.

    I agree with you. I feel like something is sometimes lost in translation, People often don’t reply or seem abrupt or distance but they don’t mean it.

    And it’s always better to be a kind person. I’ve noticed that it just makes other people happier, which is a good deed in itself!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Olivia 01/26/2015 / 1:15 pm

    And making other people happier creates more sunshine for everyone! I love your thoughtful comment.


  3. Stephen 01/26/2015 / 2:56 pm

    If someone is unhappy and expresses it unpleasantly, the first thing I do is attempt to understand the content – what prompted the the unhappiness in the first place. If I can do that, then many times the format – how it was expressed – becomes more understandable. If the response isn’t warranted, me feeding back my understanding of the situation and asking about the content-format disconnect can be the start of a healing conversation.


    • Olivia 01/26/2015 / 3:17 pm

      Agreed! So many times, simply asking “you seem distressed about something, do you want to talk about it?” has led to an entirely different conversation that helped make a better connection.


  4. Annye / AnAmishWarmblood 01/27/2015 / 3:08 pm

    I agree with you 100%. In fact I’d propose the opposite: that disrespect and dislike should be earned! Love, tolerance, respect, gentleness, patience… these should all be our default reactions to meeting a new person, or even to meeting someone we already know in a new context.

    This is one reason that road rage bothers me so much. Husband, you have literally *no idea* why the person in front of you is driving slowly – he could be a new driver, he could be frightened by the weather, he could be feeling very sick. Or he could be a really crappy driver who’s texting and putting on lipstick. But you don’t know!

    Whenever I’m tempted to be impatient at another driver I think of how poorly I drove when I was on my way home from college to put down my childhood dog. I’d like to think some other people were forgiving me at that time.

    (Wow, sorry for the novel!)


    • Olivia 01/27/2015 / 3:21 pm

      No sorries for the novel, that’s so thoughtful and well-worded! I love the idea of love and patience being our default reactions. And I absolutely agree with your example of road rage- my dad makes me laugh by saying “his wife must be in labor, no wonder he’s driving so erratically.” Every single time, no matter where we are. It always helps diffuse some of the annoyance!


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