After I crashed my car, I proceeded to crash hard in just about every other way and I had to swallow my pride, and accept any help that was offered to me. It was not a 'fun' experience, but it was worth its weight in gold, because it ended up teaching me some invaluable lessons about the true nature of kindnesses, some of which I'd like to share with you.
Keep the cash
When one person gave me a bit of money to tide me over, I started sobbing uncontrollably. My reaction took both her and me by surprise. Why was I taking it so hard? It's not like she was asking me to sell a kidney in order to pay my rent, or something. I did a lot of thinking about it afterwards, and I realized that the way this person offered me the money made me feel incredibly demeaned and ashamed. Once I realized how much that person was looking down on me, I decided I wasn't going to accept any more 'kindnesses' from that particular individual.
On a different occasion, someone else person showed up with boxes and boxes of food, and strangely, I wasn't embarrassed or upset at all. I just felt loved, understood and cared for - and again, my reaction took me completely by surprise, as up until that point, I thought getting care packages from my friends would be completely mortifying.
The point here is that while many 'kindnesses' can look identical from the outside, the way the 'kindness' is being done, and the place it's coming from can make all the difference to how it's actually being experienced. It's not just about how it looks, it's much more about how it really feels, and that's a crucial distinction.
The 4 criteria for true kindness
All sorts of things can get packaged up as a 'kindness', when they actually aren't. For something to really be a kindness in the truest sense of the word, it should meet the following criteria:
- It has to actually be experienced as a kindness by the recipient
- It should be 'string-free', with no expectation of payback
- The person has to really want to do it, ie, it shouldn't feel like an obligation or duty
- It needs to come from a place of empathy and compassion
When these criteria aren't met, you can get caught up in a spiritually-unhealthy web of expectation, manipulation and obligation, which can cause you no end of stress and anxiety, until you recognize what's really going on, and what your spiritually-healthy response should be.