Kindness and Guilt

There’s a certain toxic behaviour that I see quite a lot of. Thankfully, this is very rare among the people in my life, but I see it a lot on television (and other fiction) and I know that my friends have trouble with people acting this way. What’s the behaviour I’m talking about? Well, it’s when somebody does something nice for somebody, but then uses that fact against the person later. Sometimes I feel like people actively do something “kind” because they want to make the person feel guilty due to whatever issues they’re failing to communicate properly (or because they do the so-called act of kindness because they want something in return).

In my opinion, if somebody does something nice for somebody and then later uses it against them, it’s no longer an act of kindness, it’s one cog in an act of manipulation. It’s the equivalent of baking somebody a cake… but it’s actually made of something they’re allergic to for a prank, or giving somebody a nice teddy bear… but it’s actually stuffed with cocaine and you’re giving it to them because you need to hide it, or buying somebody some nice clothes… but you intentionally bought them a size to small because you think the person is overweight and want them to lose weight. Yes, in isolation, the action might seem kind, but when you see the whole picture, you realise there was no kindness involved – only manipulation.

It’s always wrong to intentionally make somebody feel guilty. The only motivation you should have behind any act of kindness is to make the other person happy, because when you care about somebody, their happiness should be its own reward. I can understand doing something for someone because you hope it will improve your relationship with someone, that’s fine as far as “ulterior motives” go. It’s even fine if you’re doing something to make someone happy, but also partly thinking “wouldn’t it be nice if this encouraged them to do the same for me one day?” it’s natural to hope people will do nice things for you or that people will like you… but it becomes not okay when you start to expect people to reciprocate all of your actions of kindness.

Love and kindness are not an economy. You don’t pay someone with one act of kindness in exchange for something from them – yes, it might generally work out like that, but sometimes it won’t (which is okay) and keeping score and trying to coerce people is not “kind” by any means. If people are doing things for people and thinking about what they can get out of the person as a result of it, or hoping to make them feel guilty or anything like that, I think they seriously need to reassess the dynamics of the relationships in their life. Nobody appreciates this kind of behaviour.

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