Monday, April 11, 2011

Is there such a thing as "too much kindness?"

I just received my copy of Barbara Oakley's new book Cold-Blooded Kindness: Neuroquirks of a Codependent Killer, or Just Give Me a Shot at Loving You, Dear, and Other Reflections on Helping That Hurts. Now, that is some subtitle. The book, I must say, is awesome. Okay, I wrote a blurb for it (along with Joyce Carol Oates and Steven Pinker who felt the same way) basically saying as much, but it really is a fascinating read from start to finish.

The book tells the story of Carole Alden who murdered her husband and asks some pertinent questions that no one else ever seems to ponder: "Is kindness always the right answer? Is kindness always what it seems?"

Oakley uses science to help us explore the darker motives behind excessive kindness. I am interviewing her for a PJTV show soon and hope to share more with you.

Have any of you experienced someone who was "overly kind" to the point where you felt they were actually destructive?

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23 Comments:

Blogger ZorroPrimo said...

You wrote a blurb with Joyce Carol Oates?

When I was in college, I had a creative writing professor (Sheila McMillen) who studied under Oates for her Masters degree. You look strikingly like Sheila.

I suppose I am making too much of a small thing, but I have always been one of those people who see connections in small coincidences.

But I not a Truther. No way.

Small world.

4:01 PM, April 11, 2011  
Blogger ZorroPrimo said...

I can't believe I wrote "I not a Truther."

I not able to form a grammatical sentence. I not able to employ the verb BE in a sentence. Me no can use words.

FECK!

4:11 PM, April 11, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

If someone is kind all the time and never has a negative comment to say about anything or anyone then all you are witnessing is a facade. You'll never know how they really feel and what is going on in their mind.

4:28 PM, April 11, 2011  
Blogger dunkelzahn4prez said...

Not having read the book, I guess I'm not quite getting the tenor of the question.

5:17 PM, April 11, 2011  
Blogger Kevin said...

Never experienced such a person myself, however kindliness is a virtue if it is sincere, so I don't think it can be overdone

5:33 PM, April 11, 2011  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

Keven, someone can be very sincerely wrong and so exert destructive influence.

5:36 PM, April 11, 2011  
Blogger dunkelzahn4prez said...

Would helicopter/overprotective parents be considered destructively kind? Is that the sort of thing we're talking about?

5:52 PM, April 11, 2011  
Blogger Sandeep said...

I second dunkelzahn4prez's question above, it is not all that clear to me as to what you mean.

Are you talking about people who fake kindness in order to produce a destructive effect? Isn't that what the villains in many movies do?

5:54 PM, April 11, 2011  
Blogger Helen said...

Hi all,

Sorry my post wasn't clear. I am not talking about people who fake kindness necessarily. The book is about people who see themselves as saviors and altruists, always rescuing others or animals, but in reality, they are not really helping but smothering others or becoming co-dependent with them.

6:29 PM, April 11, 2011  
Blogger LPF said...

Certainly a great many things are done in the name of kindness, that have the effect of keeping the recipient dependent on the benefactor...

6:45 PM, April 11, 2011  
Blogger Sandeep said...

In retrospect what you have explained is indeed the best way to read your post. I guess I got confused by some of the casual senses in which the word "kindness" gets thrown around.

7:42 PM, April 11, 2011  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

my wife is afraid of her daughter and so never challenges her in any way.

she says that the girl has had it rough from her father and is merely balancing things out.

he kicked her out of his house when she turned 18 because she didn`t look for a job and partied all the time.


the girl has just finished veterenary technology at college, which she is to be commended for, but hasn`t got any resumes out and laments that all the other students got placements!

her mother`s reaction? take her to cuba for a week.

(sigh)

9:05 AM, April 12, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

Much of my works with children is in getting the parents to act out their genuine authority and wisdom. Overly kind or permissive parents raise entitled, whining kids who are not productive and do not take criticism or engage in personal responsibility.

So yes, you certainly can be overly kind.

Trey

9:45 AM, April 12, 2011  
Blogger dunkelzahn4prez said...

Very true, Trey. It's hard to know how to strike that balance, though. Tyrannical parenting is also extremely damaging to kids. It can be hard to find that area of "genuine authority and wisdom," as you put it, without being lax or overly-permissive, when the example set for you was on the other extreme end of things.

10:06 AM, April 12, 2011  
Blogger Greg said...

This is really what Democrats do except on a larger scale isn't it? They start out with someone who's had a rough time with something, and then they extrapolate on that to save everyone who might have a similar problem and presto-chango, we have new laws or more public programs. Forget the unintended consequences or new entitlements. It was shown long ago that welfare really hurts the people it intends to help.

I read somewhere a long time ago and forgot the author or book it was from, that "quantitative changes lead to qualitative changes". This seems obvious, but explains a lot about our current problems with not just the budget or politics, but how we think about others.

10:23 AM, April 12, 2011  
Blogger Helen said...

Greg,

Exactly. Barb Oakley extrapolates from her book to politics. We will be discussing political correctness and the harm it does in one of my upcoming PJTV shows with her.

1:47 PM, April 12, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Overly kind or permissive parents raise entitled, whining kids who are not productive and do not take criticism or engage in personal responsibility.

I see a lot of this. Kids that never learn to be polite and respectful but expect to be spoiled.

3:21 PM, April 12, 2011  
Blogger gemma said...

That phrase, "Kill them with kindness" didn't come from nowhere.

1:56 PM, April 13, 2011  
Blogger BarryD said...

The book is about people who see themselves as saviors and altruists, always rescuing others or animals, but in reality, they are not really helping but smothering others or becoming co-dependent with them.

I suspect that this particular combination of self-perception and objective reality is extremely common. I may by cynical, but I think that the ratio of self-perceived messiahs to actual messiahs is infinity.

4:23 PM, April 13, 2011  
Blogger David said...

Just last night, I was reading G K Chesterton:

The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad.

--Orthodoxy, 1908

5:19 PM, April 13, 2011  
Blogger dunkelzahn4prez said...

The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad.

--Orthodoxy, 1908

Brilliant stuff. It reminds me of the CS Lewis quote - "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive...those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

12:34 PM, April 14, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

I am from the government and I am here to help you. 8)

Trey

2:37 PM, April 14, 2011  
Blogger Tscottme said...

Dennis Prager relates the saying from the Torah/Bible "those that are kind to the cruel will be cruel to the kind." A good example of this is a battered wife that is obsequious to her battering husband and vicious to her kids to try and prevent the kids from causing a violent outburst from the battering husband.

Yes, it's easy to be too kind, a spoiling parent comes to mind. No matter what the kids do the spoiling parent is kind and trying to fix the problems the spoiled kid creates.

7:11 AM, April 17, 2011  

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