I don’t know about anyone else, but sometimes we offer a genuine act of kindness that doesn’t turn out as we had hoped. This is true, on occasion, and we must look at the outcome from a difficult perspective. Not all things go our way. It’s a fact of life. And sometimes other people’s lives don’t go their way. In this instance, I tried to offer acts of kindness to another person when his life wasn’t going as he had hoped. In the end, my acts of kindness were not recognized. And that’s okay. Because as the giver of the gesture, I still benefited from it because I felt good about my actions. If your giving is not received as you had intended, know that you tried your best. And then, let it go.
Sometimes even our greatest efforts are not realized.
The person I’m talking about is a man in his early sixties. He at one time had a life of prosperity, love, and good fortune. From the outside, it looked like he “had it made” as they say. I think he did. He was the proud father of three, owned a beautiful home, and was financially successful. After a series of setbacks, however, he lost everything: his family, home, and wealth. It was a loss beyond his wildest dreams, much of which came from his own doing.
After years of watching him struggle, I chose to offer him generous acts of kindness. I put myself aside and worked from a place in my heart that was pure and genuine. Being the untrusting sort, I soon realized that he was skeptical or suspicious of my acts of kindness. Instead of being appreciative, he questioned my motives. He wanted to know why I was offering him kindness instead of resentment. Yes, you get it, kin altruism at its finest.
Kin Altruism and Acts of Kindness Gone Wrong
Kin altruism, as discussed in a previous blog, is about helping a family member during times of hardship. We see someone who is hurting or could use a pick me up in the strongest sense of the word, and we offer a hand. We leave lunch at the door with a little note. We offer kindness when they are not used to it. We offer to help with the laundry. We take them to renew a driver license when it has lapsed. These are not little acts of kindness. These are acts of kindness from deep inside the soul. They are genuine, above and beyond acts of kindness to offer another human being. It is, as we have said in previous blogs, human kindness. Human kindness of the greatest depth and the kindest intention.
Sometimes, however, despite our greatest efforts and kindest words, they fall on deaf ears. Our actions and gifts of true caring are scrutinized, questioned, or dismissed. The receiver receives nothing or little from the acts of kindness and the giver is left to wonder why. Yes, this type of thing can happen. It doesn’t often, I hope, but it does happen. And when this happens how do we rationalize that we have done our best to no avail? How do we, as the giver, come to terms with this. Of course, we get the dopamine and oxytocin rush from being helpful or kind, but is this enough after all is said and done? Does this make it worthwhile?
Acts of Kindness and Non-Attachment to the Outcome
I could be doubtful, and I could be hurt. I could also play the victim, which is not what offering true acts of loving kindness are all about. It is about non-attachment to the outcome of our offering and letting it go. Does it hurt? Of course, it does. We offer kindness to others, and they question why we would want to help them. They look for reasons, so beyond the scope of what we have offered, as motives for our behavior. Why are we being kind? A simple answer of “because it’s the right thing to do,” or “these acts are given from my heart” are not understood. Instead, they are questioned. In this situation, I believe that non-attachment to the outcome is the most important component of giving from the heart, offering acts of kindness and showing compassion for another human being. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. And that’s okay.
The reason I’m writing this blog is to say that sometimes we can offer from our hearts and the other person fails to accept it. Yes, a kind smile or a small gesture of kindness can be easy. It causes the ripple effect at times that we give it, and it continues to give. It is a free, kind gesture that goes a long way. This can be to a friend, someone we see at the grocery store, a stranger, or a neighbor. We offer this as a gift so that their day is better and uplifted. Sometimes, a small act of kindness will take their bad day, if they’re having one, and turn it right side up. And that’s what small, random acts of kindness are all about.
But what about the times when greater acts of kindness, those that have the potential to change someone’s circumstances or at least their perspective, go unnoticed or even unwanted? This, of course, is always a possibility. Should we feel victimized, or hurt, or even angry because these are all real possibilities? After having done heartfelt good deeds for another person, I still believe it makes us a better human being to have done them. In the long run, after the “helpers high” has worn off, I still feel that when we offer random acts of kindness, we did the right thing.
Whether related by blood, marriage, or commitment, family can be tough. We all know that on some level. We do not choose our family, and that’s part of the reason it can be hard. We can choose our friends and relate to them because they are chosen with our heart. Often the friendship vibrates at a certain level and works for both people. On occasion the scales shift a bit, but in the end, they are chosen for reasons that make us happy. Family is different.
A Good Deed of Kindness is Never Wasted
In the end, I believe that a good deed of kindness is never wasted. I believe that kindness is never the wrong choice. I believe that giving from the depths of our soul or from a light heart are both good choices and, if not recognized, should not cause us to question ourselves. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” is strewn across t-shirts and coffee mugs, and although sometimes trite, it’s true. Change, actual change for the best, starts with us. The Hopi Elder poem says, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Go out, do good deeds, offer acts of kindness, and let go. Let go of the attachment to the outcome and give from the heart.
For more ideas about how to give simple acts of kindness, please pick up our Random Acts of Kindness Deck to find ideas and ways to give to others. They are not grand gestures of kindness - they are kind ways to lift someone’s day and bring light into the world.