Some weeks ago, a colleague approached me for some advice. He had been involved in a motor vehicle accident and was trying to make sense of what had occurred, who was at fault and why it had happened at that time and place. In working this through, my colleague had discussed with his partner the possible causes for the accident and the reasons why the other driver had collided with him by missing the one way street sign!
In understanding the other driver’s motivations, my colleague reflected on a number of explanations and possibilities, including the potential that the other driver could have been impaired or perhaps they had just received some difficult news, which had caused them to lose concentration and cause the accident. To this, my colleague’s partner became infuriated at the level of understanding being offered to the guilty driver and she explained that “…. you are just being too kind and too nice, the other driver was a moron and there is no other explanation required!”
In speaking with me, my colleague looked very melancholy and described how this label (as he saw it) of being too nice and too kind was very troubling for him. When I asked why, he believed that his partner perceived it as a weakness and he was concerned that he also believed it to be a weakness.
My colleague isn’t alone, there are lots of people who mistaken kindness and generosity (both material and emotional) to be a sign of weakness. In my view they are a sign of strength. I believe it is far easier to lash out with un-kind words, or walk past someone in need. It takes far greater strength and courage to try to see the other persons perspective and to attempt to understand where they are coming from, what is motivating their behaviour and then offer support and assistance.
In nursing, kindness and compassion are essential enablers for us to provide the highest quality of care. In offering my colleague some support and reassurance, I told him that I would much rather work with a colleague who was kind and I would much rather be nursed by a kind nurse. I think a lot of people mistaken kindness for being a pushover, but in my experience this is not the case. Kindness is a strength and one can be both kind and assertive – firm, fair and friendly is a good motto to run with! Even the Dalai Lama agrees, he is reported to have said: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Dalai Lama.