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"Some people mistake kindness with weakness"

 
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I remember being told this by an elderly businessman in East Lothian. At the time it puzzled me. Maybe being a young guy it didn't fully resonate with me and yet something about its message, hooked me in.

 


I suppose at the time I guessed he was speaking from experience. Jimmy was renowned throughout the county for being a kindly gentleman, always had a good word for everyone and always had a sweetie in his pocket for the kids. In all, a much loved and respected man and businessman.

 


So I asked myself, why would such "an altogether popular man" come out with something like this? Well I don't know about you, but if I struggled to digest the meaning 35 years ago, I fully understand it now. I'm not sure if it's a sign of the times or just that this has always been one of life's facts, albeit it takes maturity to fully understand it?

 


By now you may be wondering what has inspired this blog topic today. Well it's not because of any particular recent incident in my life (although I have had a few in my time!). Yesterday I facilitated five coaching clients. What struck me was the common theme with all of them. Each one was dealing with hurt, anger, a sense of betrayal even because they believed they had shown kindness towards others only for it to be taken advantage of. It is also interesting that all of these people are strong characters, principled and determined to succeed in life. They are not obviously what you may call wimps or pushovers! Their "crimes" vary from having money, expertise in their work or basically they are just nice kind people.

 


All of them (albeit for different reasons) were carrying unpleasant memories of how others had repaid their kindness with spite, jealousy and a determined effort to discredit them. Is this something you have experience of? Have you given your time, your money or shared knowledge with someone, believing that you were helping as a friend or colleague, only for them to turn round and try to outmanoeuvre or use you for their own selfish advantage in return?

 


If so how did you feel? Angry, used, embarrassed or stupid at not seeing them for what they were, sooner than was obvious to you?

 


Each of my clients yesterday happened to be dealing with such a challenge. Maybe it was coincidence or maybe right now something is in the air! Whatever it is, it’s how we deal with the situation that matters.

 


When we feel we have been unfairly taken advantage of, here are some suggestions on how to deal with it and feel much better within yourself:

 


>    Don't beat yourself up about it. It isn't a crime to show kindness. Taking advantage of it is what is wrong

 


>    If others saw it coming before you did, that doesn't mean to say it was obvious to you. These people can be good at disguising their motives. Forgive yourself and preferably them too.

 


>    By all means learn from the experience and be stronger, but allow yourself to trust again.

 


If you give to charity and it squanders your donation, does this mean you'll never give to any charity again? Unlikely. If you've ever wondered why some kids get bullied at school, often it is the kind ones who get a hard time and usually by others who try to take advantage. Funny old world, come to think about it, especially when being kind to one another is supposed to make us happy!

 


Maybe it’s the big change in values and all the questioning that is going on in 2012 that is bringing this to light? Maybe we are all heading for a kinder and more considerate world where those who are kind are not targeted by dishonesty, greed and opportunism. Nice thought!

 


Or maybe it's a lesson for us all to know the difference, set boundaries and be more careful in future? Or is the real test to be able to let go of the hurt, forgive and be able to trust our instincts again?

 


The reassuring news is that the truth always comes out in the end and sometimes we don't even have to open our mouths and say a word in order for this to happen. So we can spend a lot of time worrying, wanting revenge and feeling unfairly treated. Trust me; I have experienced all of these feelings and all at once!

 


However what resolves the situation for me every time is to forgive them for their wrongdoing and forgive myself for feeling taken in by them and used in the first place. I actually found this more difficult. It doesn't change the history but it sure changes how I feel towards them and about the situation and ultimately how I feel within myself. That’s the most important thing to me now.

 


Some things are brought to try us in life. I used to think letting go was letting them win, and I have argued my case and won many times. Now I know that letting go allows me to be free of the internal pain (often anger) and that of course is the greatest victory of all.

 


It doesn't change the past but it does change how we feel about it and how we can feel in the future. It certainly allows us to feel a lot happier as an individual.

 


Have a great week

 


Billy

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