I love today’s quote but not everyone has the same response to this concept. Some people believe that offering someone a kindness will make them weak and unmotivated. I was recently reminded of this when overhearing a conversation between two women who were (not very quietly) discussing this very topic. As the discussion ensued, the louder of the two began to impart the ‘make them earn it themselves no matter what’ philosophy to her companion. She stated bluntly that being generous to others created entitlement.
I listened in silence as I heard this presumably well-meaning woman implore that she believed unwarranted kindnesses and support should be delivered to others very sparingly so that people learn the value of hard work, just as she had. The woman then went into her own history of having risen from the depths of poverty to her current status, which was apparently quite affluent. This rise from below occurred, according to her, through her own hard work and no help from anyone else. Rags to riches stories are heart warming to hear and they remind us of the amazing resiliency of the human spirit. But rags to riches are just one story– and there are many other stories just as wonderful- and more importantly just as legitimate. As valid as the ‘I did it my way’ story was in this woman’s life, it really does nothing but cast a shadow when it is erroneously extended onto society at large.
So the wheels for today’s Rx began to turn as I sat there listening. I suppose you could say her story was not mine to listen to, and I would absolutely agree…but the only reason I was hearing it, was because she spoke it as if it were a universal truth that belonged to everyone on the planet.
Entitlement, of course, can be a real issue in the world, but to avoid offering kindness for the sole reason of warding off entitlement is a flimsy strategy at best. What if the one kindness we extend toward another is THE ONE THING that puts their foot on the rung they would never have been able to reach on their own? And what if that rung is the one that changes everything in their life? I listen to life stories for a living- my ‘one rung’ theory is astonishingly common in the lives of those around us. I think what many people may not realize however, is that denying someone a kindness is not always a neutral act. If we can easily extend a kindness to someone, but we instead withhold it from them -that may just give them the last cosmic shove that they can take…and not only do they not get a foothold on that next rung, they actually lose their grip on the ladder and they fall. Sometimes to a depth you and I cannot even fathom.
We all live within our own stories, but we should never try to make others live there too. My own life story has shown me that extending a kindness does not always create ‘entitlement’. And conversely withholding a kindness does not always result in the ‘character building’ it is touted to create. We each have our own story- its what creates us… but our story defines only who we are…never who anyone else should be.