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Debunking the Myth of Kindness

By Debbie Mandel

A popular myth is floating around that being kind and compassionate means that we give ourselves away. In fact, there is a condition in highly stressed people known as “compassion fatigue,” – the affliction of the caregiver, the over-doer and the people-pleaser. However, it is time to realize that kindness and civility are selfish and advantageous.

From the evolutionary value of the fight or flight stress response we get to survive another day, alert to potential enemies. Also, humans are tribal who know there is strength in numbers. So, the first order of the day is to cooperate with your tribe!

When I read Matt Ridley’s Wall Street Journal article, “Have we evolved to be nasty or nice?” I realized that kindness, compassion and civility are really quid pro quo. Ridley makes the case whether it is family or business, the best kind of kindness is mutually beneficial. In other words, kindness comes with conditions.

Cooperating with family, friends and colleagues offers you protection like the mafia. Networking can lead to better business deals with an ongoing future by building relationships; everyone wins instead of the one-time-only victor versus loser deal. Business leadership has grown more enlightened over the years progressing from a benevolent dictatorship to more of a democracy involving employees in team decision making, encouraging exercise sessions during the workday, more flexible hours - even working at home, group outings and shortened summer hours. Consequently, productivity is up!

5 examples of what kindness can do:
  • Being kind and generous to another person gives you power. You feel that you stand on a higher rung of the ladder, fortunate to be able to help out another. This is why in stress management when a client feels sad and low, I always suggest volunteer work to see yourself benevolently reflected in someone else’s eyes. So, if you are unable to be a social climber, you can always be an empowered soul climber.
  • Teachers are kind to students, going above and beyond their duty to help them learn because teachers need to validate their path that they matter especially since they often work very hard for little pay. Simply put, teachers need students to leave their mark.
  • Doctors are kind to patients if they want to have a successful practice. These days patients shop around for doctors who are true caregivers. Also, they read the internet for doctor reviews as well as to get educated about their symptoms. In fact, nowadays many doctors answer their patients’ emails.
  • Parents are kind to children, so that they won’t embarrass them in public. Tantrums and bad behavior do not reflect well on parents. Since parents do not really cut the cord, they know that their children are extensions of their DNA and others judge them based on their children’s successes, failures and manners. Loving their children means they love themselves.
  • Children are kind to their parents to reap the benefits of their family government. Being kinder and more polite to parents leads to greater freedom, privileges and gifts.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: