Killing Yourself with Kindness

Today, my sister, Ariel Barnes, shares insights on kindness. She is a freelance writer, and has success as an online satirical advice columnist. She is also on the Internet, but do not confuse her for the other Ariel Barnes who is a successful male cellist. Enjoy…

We obsess over the label of being “kind,” but for what? So we can sleep better at night? Is it for the sake of talking about it and looking superior? Or is it so we can tally up all our good deeds and think we’re worth a fast pass to the front of the line at the pearly gates when our time comes?

Kindness is not our true nature. We are selfish people and sometimes that’s okay. In fact, sometimes it’s necessary. When your plane is going down, you have to put on your oxygen mask before your fellow passengers.

You can’t always be kind to yourself and to others and still live happily. When you put another’s happiness before yours, your mental health crumbles and your physical health isn’t too far behind.

I have been a hateful person because of kindness. In hoping to undo a lot of wrongs to make something right, I hurt a good friend of mine. From the start my intent was polluted with selfishness. In short, I had been friends with someone for years, but I never wanted anything more than the friendship we had. I was content, but I can’t say the feeling was the same on his end. He always asked for more, one way or another, and that’s where he went wrong.

I have always put myself first in relationships, but this time I wanted to see if the alternative could work and it did not. It actually backfired in my face and in my kindness I was cruel.

He knew I was romantically unreliable. He knew I was not invested in him the way he was invested in me. He knew I had someone else on my mind. Even with all that, we still dated for a while because I knew that’s what he wanted. I gave it a shot because I thought he deserved it. For years, I had constantly disappointed this person and thought maybe I could undo that by making some sort of sad excuse for a real relationship work—generosity at its finest. I felt I owed something to him for all the times he had waited for me. Through guilt, I tried to will myself to create a loving something out of nothing and my mind and body reacted as if I was ill. I was just trying to be kind. I just wanted to make him happy.

By being what at first seemed “kind,” I turned myself into a hateful person. I couldn’t tell if I was hanging out with him because he wanted to or because I wanted to feel “kind.” I caught myself badmouthing him. I would look him up and down and wonder what I was thinking. I would roll my eyes at the things he said. I would even think about someone else. I felt like I was putting on a show for him—an eternal act out of guilt. I didn’t hate him, I just knew I would never and could never have the feelings he had for me. Kindness had trapped me and I couldn’t be the one to break it off with him.

In time, he noticed the zipper on the back of my sheep’s clothing. He could tell I had nothing, but platonic feelings for him, as hard as I tried to fake it. I thought I could make this person feel loved when he could not have been farther from it. He freed me from my guilt and we no longer speak. I know I deserve that.

If you’re not a kind person, don’t be pretend to be kind. Don’t put on an act for people. You are not a show. Be what you truly are, but be kind to yourself first and foremost. Kindness does not reign above all, truth does and the truth cannot always be kind.

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