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Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…
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For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
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Brenda has truly opened up a space for introverted types on the ‘net, and her self-revelations are always inspiring. Her voice is one I always look forward to. She is one of the writers that actually played a part in my return to writing.  — S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
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I have been dating an introverted man who I am very in love with for almost 2 years.  Reading your posts have helped me to be more supportive and understanding to him especially during the times when he needs space.  I just wanted to thank you for your weekly posts and let you know how helpful they are for someone who is in a relationship with an introvert. C.M. on space2live
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The Dark Sides of Warm and Kind People

hands giving flower

Over the years, I’ve suggested many of my coaching clients seek warm, kind, safe people. I have my clients notice when they feel relaxed and at home with others and when they do not. Ultimately, they spend more time in settings and with people who make them feel at ease. The idea being the more warm and kind the people around them, the more they can relax and grow.

An interesting thing came up today while talking to a long-time client. She said her experience with warm, kind, supportive people has not always been positive. Often, she has connected with them and then been burned. It turned out their kindness and warmth were only an act. As soon as a disagreement or distress arose, they got mean or self-serving. She finds it hard to trust a sweet nature.

Genuine?

Years ago, I dated a man who fed my ego with his kind, supportive words about my writing. He was warm and teared up at beautiful scenery or when talking about his kids. I loved being with him. His rich voice and thoughtful words filled up my empty spaces.

I helped him with his new business. I donated money to it. I worked on advertising. I did physical labor in the warehouse. I even bought groceries for him and his kids.

He would make plans with me for the weekend and then bail on Friday. He did that several times. I told him I wanted to be able to rely on him. He eventually told me he could not commit to a long-term relationship with children involved. He didn’t want to be trapped in the suburbs.

I could not rely on him. I felt used. I think he genuinely liked my warmth, but now I question his. He did make me feel inspired and empowered at first, but later deflated and used.

As I type this, I realize I sound victimized. I hate that. My intention is to show that all kindness and warmth is not genuine or enduring.

Passive

We’ve all known someone who was sugary sweet and warm with their words and even their gestures, when times were easy and good, but when the going got tough or there was effortful work to be done, they checked out.

In Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents, Lindsey C. Gibson PsyD, calls this kind of parent a Passive Parent. “Children wisely know not to expect or ask for much help from these parents. While passive parents often enjoy their children, have fun with them, and make them feel special, the children sense that their parents aren’t really there for them in any essential way.”young dad with daughter

These parents are nice and kind but don’t do the hard work of taking responsibility to protect their children. They don’t discipline because they want to be admired and adored by their children. They don’t teach their children how to navigate the hard parts of life because they don’t know how. They just put their heads in the sand. But they are so thoughtful, warm and kind…

I can see where this kind of passivity would also wreak havoc in adult relationships. Perhaps you have a partner who avoids conflict at all costs. They may come across as gentle and sweet, but there is never any resolution to disagreements. Your relationship is a lot of walking on eggshells. Intimacy is tough when you silently resent each other or withdraw to your own lives.

I admit, I’ve acted passively in parenting and in partnering, to the detriment of both. The last seven or eight years have been years of learning how to back up my warmth with actions and effort.

How to know if they are genuine?

One test to see if someone is authentically kind, is to see where they are when there is hard work to be done or when emotions run high. Is their empathy only backed by words? Do they take action or ignore the difficulties?

Empowering

I don’t want to blacken the true power of kind, supportive and genuinely warm people. If you are fortunate enough to have one or more of these people in your life, notice how they empower you. Their steadfast kindness and openness gives us the security to reciprocate such warmth and do the hard work.

Have you been fooled by false sweetness? Do you need to follow up your kind words with kind actions? 

Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

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3 Comments

  1. Michael Buley January 16, 2019 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    okay, now I’ll post what I wrote a few days ago … see if it goes through!

    It’s important to know yourself — light and dark — because then you know that the same lives within others. If you are aware of your own shadow side — the opposites, the polarities, that we all are — then you know it is in others, too.

    None of us is — at least so I think — all kindness, tenderness, generosity. Far from it. Maybe some have achieved that place of nothing but kindness. I’m not sure. I’m not sure that such a person is whole, or if, on the other hand, such a person has reached a place of being that few achieve.

    I assume ‘the other sides’ in someone. I allow space for it, anticipate it, look for it, encourage it, welcome it — as I know those things exist in me, and need time and space to breathe, to be. What I am leery of, is constant kindness, niceness. Though those things are indeed nice, I think, ‘Who else are you? What is inside of you that isn’t being given voice?’ One cannot always be kind, without something inside being stifled, or dying — some essential life force.

    Jung said, ‘I don’t aspire to be a good man. I aspire to be a whole man.’ I do aspire to be a good man, and I know that that means I must be whole. To do the most good with who we are, the most good in this world that we might do, we must become whole.

    I think that the quest to become whole, and live as a whole person, is a lifelong one. A merging of all of our parts, which get scattered early in life, some accepted, some rejected. The journey is a long one, and most don’t want to go there, can’t go there, or have no conscious (though it is there in the unconscious) thought that there is a journey that we could make.

    I haven’t read much of Joseph Campbell’s work, but he wrote about the ‘hero’s journey,’ the journey within. It’s hard. It’s long. You don’t know where you’ll come out, or who you’ll be. You’ll be different. You have no idea how long it will take, what it will take, how your life will change, or if you ever get ‘there,’ wherever and whatever ‘there’ is.

    It doesn’t sound very enticing … lol … But there’s something about being real. Being true to who you really are. Something that calls us — lol … WE call to ourselves to come home, after perhaps a lifetime of being away from who we really are.

    There’s a freedom we seek. To be real, and whole. But that freedom isn’t exactly free … lol … and I do laugh out loud as I write this, at all of it, me, the whole thing!

    Brenda, thanks for letting me ramble …!!

    • Brenda Knowles January 17, 2019 at 10:28 am - Reply

      Hi Michael! I’m glad your post finally went through. I’ve been having trouble with the website over the last week. I think we’re getting the kinks worked out.
      This part of your comment spoke to me: “What I am leery of, is constant kindness, niceness. Though those things are indeed nice, I think, ‘Who else are you? What is inside of you that isn’t being given voice?'” So true! What are they NOT saying? I want to hear the part they are hiding, even if it is difficult to hear. If someone is always kind, soft, positive, it seems they are not sharing a real part of themselves. I think that negative, scared, angry side is sometimes the easiest to relate to and connect with.
      I love Jung. I used his theories in my book. One I especially like is that as we get older we get better at incorporating and improving the parts of ourselves we don’t consider our strong suits. For example, if we were born more introverted, as we age we learn how to and when we exhibit more extroverted traits.
      I think you are doing a great job of exercising your freedom and being who you truly are. Keep growing Micheal!

  2. Michael Buley January 16, 2019 at 12:26 am - Reply

    Brenda, I keep trying to post … doesn’t take it. Maybe this time? Maybe I need to try another computer! ah hah!

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