When Kindness Falls Like Rain

There was a guy that I dated in my early 30’s that I went to climb the Capital Hill steps in Seattle with. This was my favorite workout when I was preparing for a mountain climb – 13 flights of stairs, 290 steps in all, beautiful view overlooking Lake Union from the top. I’d do seven sets or more if a climb was quickly approaching and it was not only a good workout, but it would improve my confidence that I was ready to go.

These stairs were my home turf in a way – I knew the people that did them regularly and even some of the people in the houses next to them. It was never a “comfortable” workout but I was very comfortable doing them. I even take my kids to do them with me now on occasion.

So I took the guy to do them with me one day and he said something like, “You should never do these with your hands in your pockets. If you were to fall, you wouldn’t be able to catch yourself.”

Fair enough. But as we continued to do the stairs, my hands would creep back into my pockets because it was cold out. Given that it was me, I’ll admit I was likely being a little stubborn as well but I don’t think I was doing it on purpose.

And the guy got more and more apoplectic about it. It had stopped being kindness and had crossed into control.

I see this all the time with my kids. My 7-year-old daughter will offer to “fix something” for my 3-year-old son like the other day when he was having trouble with YouTube Kids. And then she’ll tell him what to watch, how to watch it and what he should think.

No surprise but it doesn’t go over very well.

In one of my favorite posts from Jack Canfora, Things That I Think I’ve Learned So Far, he writes

“Despite my earlier assumptions in life, kindness is vastly more impressive and important than intelligence. Being proud of intelligence is like being proud of your blood type: an accident of birth. Kindness is a choice. An often very difficult one, whose benefits in the short term redound to others rather than yourself.”

Jack Canfora, Things That I Think I’ve Learned So Far

The Buddhists talk about the concept of a near enemy. Not the opposite of something but something akin to it so it’s easily mistaken as the right thing and can be nearly as destructive as a far enemy. On a recent Unlocking Us podcast episode with Brené Brown, clinical psychologist Chris Germer gave the example of pity being a near enemy of compassion (I believe hatred would be the far enemy).

For me, control is the near enemy of kindness. When I want something that I think I’m doing to land a certain way or the recipient to respond in a particular way, I know I’m not being kind but instead controlling.

It makes me think of one my favorite lines from the song Anna Begins by the Counting Crows, “And this time when kindness falls like rain.

We don’t get to pick and choose where kindness falls. We just have to choose to be kind and trust that benefit will land somewhere. And from what I’ve found, if I can be kind without controlling it, it changes me regardless of the result on others because it strengthens my trust muscle.

I didn’t date that guy for very long. He kept on telling me what a nice guy he was. And it turns out that you can’t control how people think of you either.

For most posts like this – a little story-telling mixed with philosophy, please visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com 

And if you want to follow me, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter @wynneleon

47 thoughts on “When Kindness Falls Like Rain

  1. Control is a fine line in parenting, but smudges over time in that we learn to step back as the kids grow and flourish. But watching them make mistakes is an exercise in itself: how to combine control and kindness? More kindness and just a little control? No control? Is setting boundaries a form of control?

    You presented this topic with lovely sentiments, Wynne. ☺️

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You make such a great point about parenting, Claudette. And how it changes over time is such a continual exercise in judgment and letting go.

      Are boundaries a form of control? Maybe a form of self-control? Great questions!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Boundaries for ourselves or others? I agree with Wynne that setting personal boundaries can have varied meaning. However that boundaries created by others that are looked at like rules…parenting seems obvious- we are all about trying and believing we’re protecting our kids. There may be a fine line though when an adult is creating those *rules* for another adult. Where and how does the individual acknowledge the blurred line between genuine kindness or control? Lots to think about Claudette.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Gosh, I dated a guy like that briefly in my early-20s. My male friends of 20 years were “only after one thing” and he was just trying to protect me by forbidding me to talk to them. It’s an awful feeling to be on the receiving end of that–it does feel like control is the opposite of kindness. I’ve thought a lot about it over the years, and I think the control often stems from a place of insecurity or lack of control in other areas of life (such as career). It’s really not becoming, and what’s worse is those “nice guys” often don’t recognize that there is some room for growth. I love this, Wynne. Thank you!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. What a great comment, Erin. I think you are right about insecurity and lack of control in other areas as a possible source. And that “nice guys” often don’t see there is room for growth. Somehow it squashes their curiosity – to tie back to your post. Right?

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes, you’re right on the money! Nice guys think they’re doing great and don’t realize they could do ever better. Curiosity really does seem an important factor–in a roundabout way–in fostered kindness.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Well said, Wynne. I have long heard something worthwhile akin to it — our strengths are also our weaknesses. Said differently, too much is more than enough.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Very intriguing concepts, Wynne, and of course, you’ve presented them in such a compelling way! Allowing kindness to fall like rain… Stating it like that makes it something I’ll remember. And you’re right – we can’t control how kindness will land, but that doesn’t mean we stop being kind. The near enemy is another thing that jumped out at me. There’s such solid truth to that. Frenemies can be greatly destructive, and we don’t even recognize what’s taking place. And Jack’s post! I believe that was before I’d found W&S, so I’m glad you linked back to it… I was alternately smiling and laughing out loud. 😃 Finally, loved your ending. THANK GOD you gave that guy the boot. Can you imagine?! He’d STILL be telling you what a nice guy he was – as he was trying to control you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so glad you liked the ending, Kendra. I didn’t know if would come across as humorously as I intended it. Yep, he got the boot… 🙂

      Frenemies — such a good example near enemies. Often quite literally!

      I loved your post about how to make a difference and this seemed to flow from it. Thanks for the inspiration, my friend!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh yes, I was smiling, for sure! And so glad the posts dove-tailed like that. Makes it really fun when that happens! 🤍

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Devils advocate here: I think that we do think/believe we’re being kind. Not so much in any creepy. overbearing boyfriend type scenario, but just in general in life. Older siblings know more and like to *help* not understanding how controlling that feels. Parents have life wisdom and want to prevent their kids from experiencing hurt so they often overwhelm with *helpful* kindness. Elders always know better so have to direct everything…

    I think the onus belongs on both sides in the learning process. We encourage the teachers to step back, listen, observe, or even more directly keep hands off or silent. At the same time we have to encourage those being schooled to speak. To use their frustration, hurt, or fear over being told what and how to live their lives and (often loudly) proclaim how they feel and why. Like so many things, it’s a balance and a reciprocal act of trust. We learn how to give and take and I think we really learn how to *listen* in a number of different ways.

    These are my current observations with 7 yo Cece who I don’t want to see grow up and who vehemently is determined to. It’s taken 3 kids and 1 older grand for me to FINALLY get this message. Now I try to use the wisdom Cece has given me to help her mom who is the epitome of myself!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I love your devils advocate point of view. I like how you point out the obligation of the learner to speak — and it strikes me that this is really important practice too (on both sides as you say).

      And the cycles – so interesting about your daughter and granddaughter and finding and seeing the balance is a continuous struggle that we get to see from different viewpoints. Love it!!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I hope that as we move on this journey that everyone who reads here is reading in an ongoing manner. I touched on my changes regarding reading blogs recently, and I have gained so much in the re-reads. Comments help us build such a broader view of even a simple topic, but surely help with deeper or more profoundly impactful posts. It’s funny, I never really looked at blogging as an ongoing journey. You write, you read, you comment, you move on. It’s not that at all. I am discovering the power of these ongoing dialogues and I hope that this blog is an encouragement to others as well. Thank you Wynne.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. What a beautiful practice and statement, Deb. The power of these ongoing dialogues. I need to get better at doing what you suggest for re-reads. This is so much fun to be in community with you all!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I love what Deb shared about encouraging those who are “being schooled” to speak, and the idea of mutuality in the learning process. Your post is very provocative, Wynne, in that I can see exactly what you’re depicting with the story about the relationship (Kendra’s right — glad you gave him the boot!) and I see what sparked the sharing about Miss O and Mr. D. I also see what Deb brought forward because it reminded me that one of the best practices EVER is to ask first: Would you like my help, my opinion, my input. So often I have the tendency to leap, headlong into helper mode and remembering to inquire first helps to preserve dignity, demonstrates respect, and allows those who might need a beat to summon confidence/courage, find their voice, to do so.
    Wowza…my brain is on fire…so much good to consider and yes! Jack’s wisdom about kindness being a choice? Thanks for snipping that in to share…I didn’t catch it the first time around! 🤍

    Liked by 5 people

    1. “Would you like my help?” Yes – such an important question. When I see Miss O jumping in, there’s also a pride of wanting to show that she knows how to do it — and I recognize that in myself that I’m wanting to show off more than I’m wanting to help sometimes.

      And the mutuality – yes, Deb’s point is so good. We have to practice that.

      Love your reading and comments!!

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Yes Vicki- ask first! So important and also among my latest new learned behaviors thanks to dear Cece. There is such a difference in her responses when I simply remember to say, “would you like help with that?” Thank you!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks, Deb. I’ve loved chatting with you this morning, thanks to Wynne’s post. I have a developmentally disabled sister, Lisa, and Wynne’s post, your reply, made me think about all the ways that my “helping” Lisa over the years was perceived differently based on who was watching. Lisa has vision and motor problems and despite being an adult, she functions, intellectually, as an 8-year-old. She’s amazing – but to onlookers who don’t know Lisa’s story, my “help” might look overbearing. So many layers and nuances with humans. Thank you, Deb… thank you, Wynne! 💕

        Liked by 4 people

  7. This is such a fascinating topic, Wynne. I was raised in the ’60s and taught to respect authority (even when they were wrong), be seen, not heard, and in general, stifle my emotions by not making a scene. For goodness’ sake! It took me a long time to learn to voice my opinion, to feel, to respond, and to let people know what I prefer, what I want to do, and what I think about this or that. Not controlling where and how your kindness lands is such an astute observation and so worthy of our consideration. Thanks, Wynne, for giving us something hearty to chew on this week. Hugs, C

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For goodness’ sake, indeed! It does take a long time to break those patterns, doesn’t it? Thank goodness we are here to encourage each other in the pursuit!

      And sorry it took me a few days to respond to this. Somehow it got caught in the spam filter for no reason I can figure out. So glad to see you here! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My brain’s whirring too, in reading through these comments. My grandpa told me once that he’d figured me out. He said my response to advice that I never intended to take was to say, “Oh, that’s a good idea!” His observation was, “You say that to be nice, even though you know good and well you’re going to do what you want anyway, aren’t you?” And he was spot on. I’m reading these comments thinking of how often I might just as nicely indicate when I don’t want advice. Definitely food for thought you’ve given us. And I love what you said, Deb, about the comments. I glean SO much from wisdom shared – one thought sparks another, and so forth. It’s a fantastic way of growing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s hilarious about your grandpa. I’m going to totally watch out in case you ever say, “Oh, that’s a good idea!” But it is such a polite way to say “no, thank you.” I love it! The comments are so fun – the way they dovetail and build. What a great conversation!

      Liked by 3 people

  9. I must admit that I wasn’t really twigging to the idea of kindness/control, until I thought about a friend who kills me with kindness. She is always ready to help in any situation (whether I want her help or not); I am certain that her intentions are honorable and she acts out of love for me, but often her kindness morphs into telling me what to do and how to do it. Your blog and comments remind me to be mindful about motive and do my best to detach from the outcome. Thank you!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Twigging — what a great word, Julia!

      You have such a great description about your friend. Yep – exactly. This is such a hard practice, isn’t it? For me, when I add in impatience in letting my kids do things and make mistakes, I so easily fall towards control. Writing this post was my reminder too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for expanding my awareness about kindness and control. How is it that I never stopped to give the subject much thought? Thanks for raising my consciousness. My “helpees” will surely be grateful. For me, it’s a lesson in letting go—and I don’t even have little ones in the mix. That would be so much harder . . . More power to you, Wynne!

        Liked by 2 people

  10. An interesting post Wynne, and some great discourse throughout the comments. I believe from stories told, I was in your daughter’s shoes with my little sister (I was about 3 or 4) but I don’t think mum handled it well as I believe my sister’s speech development was slow as I did everything for her. Fortunately I’ve changed a bit since then. But I do wonder how much we try to control without thought. I’ll certainly try to be more mindful and aware of my interactions going forward

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I love your realization about your little sister. I’d guess that might be true with most siblings. I was the youngest so it’s fascinating to watch my kids work it out. It’s so well-intended.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Brenda!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Kindness is such a simple action, yet not always possible for some. People who are suffering, cause suffering for others, and therefore find kindness impossible. You summed it up perfectly Wynne, when you said, “We don’t get to pick and choose where kindness falls. We just have to choose to be kind and trust that benefit will land somewhere.” Beautiful post and great to find this site of yours. I shall follow.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So fun to see you here, Alegria. And your wisdom is so right on. Yes, kindness isn’t always an option for some. Such a good thing to remember when we encounter that kind of suffering. Thank you for adding that to this wonderful conversation!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A thought provoking post, Wynne.
    I love, “And from what I’ve found, if I can be kind without controlling it, it changes me regardless of the result on others because it strengthens my trust muscle.”

    Liked by 2 people

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