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Authentic Kindness Matters to Your Fulfillment

Authentic kindness is a decision, rather than a compulsion to act nice.

Kindness is needed for your own inner fulfillment and is one of the highest expressions of human development. —The Roman philosopher, Seneca.

Recently there were some articles on Psychology Today online that talked to the perils of being too nice, especially in the workplace. Nicer people make less money than their rude coworkers, get rewarded less for their work efforts, and may finish last, some of these authors say. Most of these articles are talking about a childlike expression of kindness; niceness that results from an immature need to be liked and to do good. Indeed, this type of kindness may hurt you, because you may compulsively sacrifice your needs for others, to the point where it harms you.

In contrast, authentic fulfillment deepens your fulfillment and matters to the quality of your life. This is the subject of my post today. Authentic kindness is a decision to respond to the needs of others, rather than a compulsion to act good. You appreciate first-hand what it feels like to suffer and to need the kindness of a loved one or stranger. Your empathy comes from being there and the understanding that you, like everyone else, are one step away from needing the kindness of others, no matter how good your life is today.

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But, you have to have adequate emotional development to be authentically kind. You have to be able to emotionally tolerate the unpredictable consequences of your kind actions. Authors Phillips and Taylor's contend that we are all battling against our innate tendency to be kind. At every turn, they say, kindness wants to burst forth from us, but we may hesitate to let it come forward, because of its unpredictable consequences. Hence, authentic kindness is an exchange that opens you to surprises, some of which may make you uncomfortable and put you at risk. But, what exactly do you risk by letting kindness guide your thoughts, feelings, and actions? Mingling your desires and needs with the desires and needs of other people may open you to new experiences, some of which may challenge the beliefs and values that you hold dear.

No matter, I assure you authentic kindness does matter to your fulfillment. It opens you to the remarkable in living. For example, just the other day, I took time out from my schedule to shop for a new pair of jeans. I stopped to pet a woman's dog, and this led her to tell me about some of her problems. Although I was in a rush, I stayed and listened to her. She thanked me many times for listening and apologized for taking my time. I had lost nothing through this exchange, other than a delay in my schedule. This was a slightly uncomfortable consequence of mixing up my desires and needs with hers. But, there was a positive consequence to our exchange as well. I was reminded that even on an ordinary day, in the most mundane setting (a shopping center), there are chances to experience my humanity, if I take the time. This very nice woman could not help herself that day, because of the stress that she felt. Her suffering reminded me of just how much stress can create an overwhelming need that might lead any of us to act in ways atypical to our normal behavior. I hope that I helped to ease her pain a bit that day. Little did she know that her need gave me a chance to get my daily dose of authentic fulfillment. I walked away in awe of life. Experiencing once again a core truth about existence; that is, if you want to experience the kind of fulfillment in life that deepens your appreciation for living, you have to take time out to be kind.

Indeed, kindness takes strength. You have to give of yourself in ways that may stretch your understanding, compassion, and generosity. You also have to put your biases aside and reach deep down inside of you for experiences that help you to relate to another person's suffering and need. If you don't take time in your life to connect to other people through their need, you limit opportunities for true living fulfillment. You may fool yourself as to the source of  life enjoyment as being solely in material acquisition. But, this fulfillment is temporary; it comes and goes along with your material possessions. Hence, kindness is not just about helping others, it is about nourishing you with experiences that open you to the extraordinary in living.

Don't let some of the risk involved in helping stop you from letting your inner kindness burst forth. You deprive yourself of experiences that make you appreciate life, no matter what is happening for you.I hope you liked my post today and have taken away something beneficial for your everyday living. If so, please say so by selecting the Like icon that immediately follows.

I hope you liked my post today. Thank you for stopping by. I look forward to your comments and reflections on today's topic.

Deborah Khoshaba, Psy.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and Director of Training and Development for the Hardiness Institute, Inc., Irvine, California, since 1989.

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