I’ve recently had numerous conversations with some friends about the topics of being kind and helpful. Should we always be kind and helpful to others? In the strictest sense, yes, we should always be kind and helpful to others. The real question is, how best should we show kindness and helpfulness to others. This isn’t just in the words we choose to say, the silence we choose to reply, or the actions we choose to take. For the longest time, I’ve sheltered and nurtured the Gateway Belief that whenever someone needs help, it is my responsibility to help them, however explicit or veiled the request. As will be made self evident, i no longer believe this to be true.
The “Old Me”:
In the past, I’ve literally had thousand of situations present themselves where i had to make a quick decision as to the best way to be kind and helpful. Some examples are worth presenting here:
- Person standing on the corner begging
- My kids want money
- Anger and frustration expressed by someone over a situation at home
- Anger and frustration expressed by someone over a situation at work
- Someone challenging my lack of belief in something
Let’s address each of these head on and how the “New Me” handles this now.
- If a person chooses to stand on the street corner and beg for food or money, this is a personal choice on their part. I have a personal choice when I decide to either give them free stuff or not. Whether or not I feel guilty about my decision is completely up to me. If I have a Christian worldview, I may or may not harbor guilt for my decision. Feelings would largely come from how serious I take my theology and who I’ve been listening to for guidance. Some folks see it as religiously justified to stiff or judge panhandlers as lazy and ultimately stiffing them is what “God” would look down upon and expect of them. Others would view it as un-Christ like to walk away and not help people in need. For me, whether or not I help someone physically begging for food or money is a decision to be made in the moment and nothing to feel bad about. I’m not a practicing Christian or even posses a believe in anything Supernatural. For me, there is no Heavenly Dictator judging me or my decisions. I have a choice to make in helping a panhandler and I can live guilt free making a decision in this regard on my own. When i was a believer in the Supernatural I had the “Gateway Belief” I was being judged all the time by some heavenly being who was keeping records on both my thoughts and deeds. Wow, It’s truly liberating to have shed this way of thinking.
- When and if my kids ask for money, the old Dad in me would feel guilty if I had money to give and chose to be stingy with it. Most parents harbor some element of guilt if and when a situation like this occurs and they choose to not indulge their kids requests. My sister had a child addicted to Opioids and I can tell you, there were many a time she wanted to help her son and had to say, No I can’t help you. It wasn’t from a position of not wanting to help. Almost always these decisions are made from a position of doing the least harm to your child in the long term. As another analogy, when the brakes on my son’s car started screeching, I could have given him the money he asked for to have them fixed, or I could do what I did instead, I suggested he work with me to fix the brakes on his car. I suggested also he stand by me to learn so next time he is low on money he will think twice about a possible better alternative. Once again, my old Gateway Belief of always having to give into my kid’s needs is now superseded with a much better view of the situation from a overall best way to help approach.
- I’ve now been married 32 years and have had both my ups and downs in my marital relationship. One thing my wife and others in my life have done for years is apply passive aggressive tone and rhetoric to their every day life in an attempt to have me “Fix” whatever the situation is. Generally speaking, there isn’t much either electrical or mechanical I can’t fix. As such, I’m the go to guy for most of my immediate and extended family for any fixes needed. At a wedding this past weekend, my sister expressed concern that my brother, who had agreed to take our 96 year old mother home after the wedding, might be leaving later than our mother wanted to leave and that someone should talk to our brother about it and rectify this concern. The old me would have had the Gateway Belief that resolving issues like these is always my responsibility. The new me said the following to my sister: “I think the person who has this concern should venture over to our brother and express their concern” She probably thought this was extremely forward and rude and yet I now know this is likely and precisely the correct reply to a comment of this type. It’s not my responsibility to resolve others concerns unless a person makes a coherent and compelling case as to why I should give two shits about what they feel is concerning.
- When anger is expressed at work over a situation or viewed situation, the old me would always want to jump in and resolve whatever the issue. The new me in the work place is much like the new me in family relationships. If I don’t have a vested interest or concern as to outcome, why should I expend my thoughts and energy in resolving the problem or perceived problem? The answer is I shouldn’t.
- If someone challenges my personal views or lack there of, the old me would have tried to vehemently justify my position and why. This Gateway Belief is now discarded and it has truly made my life more interesting and fun. Because of my long held belief that what I think matters to others, I almost always shared stories and anecdotes to justify what I believed and why I believed it. If someone wants to believe something fervently, they have every right to do so in the ole’ U.S. of A. If someone wants my opinions, all they need to do is ask me and I’ll share my positions freely. I’m what I call an Asupernatural Atheist. As such, I have no belief in anything Supernatural or any Gods. I needn’t justify my lack of belief in something anymore than those who lack a belief in Thor or Zeus. Again, I can be kind in simply not engaging in discussions about my positions if I have concerns over how it will be handled. Saying nothing about how I feel might be the kindest thing I can do in a given situation.
All this being said, being kind can come in many forms. Being helpful is subjective and open to personal interpretation. Is it possible to be helpful by doing nothing? I believe the answer is Yes, if done kindly.