When I was younger, kindness was one of my greatest values, but I came off more as a spineless wimp than anything. In the name of kindness, I made myself and my needs less important than everyone else’s and as a result, I felt taken advantage of, disrespected and unloved. I didn’t realize that there’s a big difference between being kind and being loving.
I didn’t understand that love doesn’t mean sinking all of my energy into making someone else feel comfortable. It doesn’t mean giving and giving without receiving and it doesn’t mean silencing my voice in case someone else doesn’t like what I have to say. Love isn’t disempowering at all but rather, always takes into consideration the highest good of everyone, including ourselves.
I find it notable that culturally, our notions of love are very one sided. Even marriage vows are concerned with loving, honouring and being true to our partner all the days of our lives. Curiously, there is no mention of loving, honouring and being true to ourselves. And without this one important element of giving to ourselves, I have to wonder, “How can we give love to anyone else when our own cups are empty?”
We have all used kindness as a manipulation at times and sometimes we don't even realize when we have a hidden agenda. We might be kind because we want others to have a certain perception of us or to treat us in a certain way, so we behave appropriately in order to get what we want but this isn't loving. I've made it a personal habit to check in with myself often and ask, “What are my motivations for doing this?” If the answer is attached to a fear of not having my needs met or receiving an unpleasant reaction from the other party, then I reconsider what I'm about to do because I don't want to give with strings attached. When we do things that we really don't want to do because we're avoiding consequences, we give our power away and create an energetic deficit within ourselves. This deficit, if it gets big enough, will inevitably manifest in unhappiness, feeling taken advantage of, burn out and can even manifest in physical illness.
We’ve been indoctrinated with this idea that taking care of ourselves is in fact selfish when in actuality, taking care of ourselves is necessary to have anything heartfelt and genuine to give. Selfish is when we lack any consideration or caring for how our actions will affect someone else. Self love means that we are true to ourselves first and foremost. We honour what feels right deep within our hearts and souls. Sometimes honouring what’s right for us comes with discomfort or a sense of guilt. We might feel the expectation, disappointment or displeasure of others when we aren’t doing as they wish but the guilt actually comes from an allegiance to our own belief system that may need updating.
When we are more concerned with being kind rather than being loving, we risk becoming a doormat for other people’s poor behaviour. This is not healthy for anyone and our clue is when we start feeling frustrated, resentful and taken advantage of. For instance, if a boss has a habit of speaking disrespectfully to an employee, kindness might excuse this poor behaviour because, “he or she has a stressful job or has had a hard life.” However, if this poor behaviour continues, it will take it’s toll on both parties. It may reinforce for the receiver that disrespect is what they deserve while it reinforces for the boss that disrespecting and dominating others is completely acceptable.
On the other hand, when love is the focus, we’re concerned with the highest good of everyone. We insist on equality and consideration for ourselves and treat others fairly and with consideration also. Love is both strong and compassionate, courageously honest, as well as empowering. It gently but firmly calls people to task in a way that is both caring and respectful to both parties. It says, “I love you enough not to disrespect you or take advantage of you even when I know I can, and it also says, “I love me enough not to allow myself to be disrespected or taken advantage of either.” It challenges in a way that brings out the best in everyone.
There is a subtle difference between kindness and love. When we suffer from an imbalance of power in the name of kindness it's not good for our well being or the well being of our families, communities, work places and our world. One quick look at the state of our global affairs speaks to the rampant misunderstanding of what healthy empowerment looks like. Our global landscape is simply a macrocosm reflecting where we are at individually. When enough individuals find a healthy sense of empowerment, the collective group can shift to something more loving. After all, the greatest gift we can ever give to the world is the gift of our own healing.
If you’re interested in improving your relationships or want to empower yourself more, contact Dawn for a one on one session or the next empowerment workshop.