I’ve been away for a while. Initially that was because life became overwhelming and stressful and my muse just went into hibernation for a bit out of self preservation. But then as the days stretched into weeks, I started to consciously keep the muse there because I felt I needed to just sit with myself and my thoughts for a while rather than analyzing and processing and dissecting with my writing.
Many ideas have come to me in that time, and I have lots to share. But for now, I figured I’d start with something easy. Something light. There’ll be time for the tougher topics later.
First off let me reassure you that this isn’t going to be an expose on Kenneth Branaugh’s Cinderella adaptation, I promise. I’ve already done that. [See: When Prince Charming Rescued Me]
No, I just found the statement fitting for a post this evening. So now that’s out of the way let’s get on with it, shall we?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been mistaken for weak because I’m generally a kind, loving person. More than that, I learned the hard way that often the manipulators and con artists of the world view kindness as a character flaw they can exploit to their benefit, by preying on my sympathies and innate desire to help others in bad situations.
Randall was one of those people; he would verbally accuse me of being a bad person while declaring he was practically a saint when it came to helping others, but deep down I think he knew the exact opposite to be true. Kindness and compassion are traits that have inherently been embedded into the very marrow of my bones since the day I was born, and he exploited that to gain my forgiveness time and time again when he would betray and hurt me with his lies and his infidelities and his cruel words.
Many of the friends he surrounded himself with did the same thing, taking advantage of my kind, giving nature time and time again. I can’t tell you how many times a young man or woman would look at me with big, wide eyes and talk about their hard life and how they were hungry or needed money to get home, and I’d give the money without batting an eye, even when my bank account was dwindling down to zero…and then 90% of the time I’d get laughed at later for falling for “game” that was “run on me”.
It was one more thing to be embarrassed about during my time in that relationship. I remember starting to withdraw a lot more; offers of kindness shriveling up as I retreated further and further into myself as a means of self-preservation. And of course that played into Randall’s hands since all of a sudden I appeared like a cold, uncaring fish while he could generously step forward and pretend to be the world’s most generous man.
Manipulation and lies…that is the nature of abusive relationships. When you look back with the benefit of hindsight, that’s what you realize. Everything was just one big rotten layered cake of manipulation and lies.
But ultimately I have come to realize that in fact inherent kindness isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of strength. It takes incredible amounts of courage to extend a hand of help while hoping – nay, trusting – the other person won’t bite you in return. On the other hand, bitterness is the easy emotion to feel; tempting and ready at a moment’s notice to overwhelm you and take over your life if you find you’ve been bitten one time too many.
Randall had me ashamed of my kind, forgiving nature; wishing I was harder, sterner, more discerning……but thankfully I’ve moved away from that feeling now. I’m not ashamed. I’ve certainly become more discerning, my radar for bullshit far more accurate than it used to be, but as for the rest…it’s still alive and well. Perhaps a bit scarred and withdrawn at the moment, but any time I see someone who appears to be in need, I feel that part of me poking out of the cave where it hibernates to see if there’s anything I can do for that person.
Can’t help it.
And you know what? That’s perfectly fine. I’d rather be taken advantage of a few times if it means helping people who genuinely need it as well. It’s worth it. I feel confident enough in myself at this point – in who I am – that memories of Randall’s laughter at my “stupidity” doesn’t affect me any more.
I’m no saint; this isn’t me waxing poetic about how perfect I am. I have my flaws. But when it comes to kindness and compassion, that at least I know I have in spades….and I’ve finally learned to wear it with pride instead of shame. And I hope anyone else reading this who shares those traits can too. Be proud of yourselves; because you’re far more courageous than those in your life who appear hardened and street smart, with a touch of bitterness and cynicism. Your heart is still open to others. Keep it that way. Stay courageous. I know that’s what I intend to do.
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, investor, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. All people with inquiries, questions, and feedback can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities.