Sunday, March 17, 2013

Inconsiderate Kindness


Inconsiderate kindness may sound like an oxymoron to you. It is an oxymoron by literal meaning but I am going to put it into context for you. Imagine you are waiting in a long line of traffic at a busy intersection waiting to make a right turn. Now imagine that car in front of you (who plans to make a left turn at the traffic light) stops to let someone out of a road to the right of you. A large trucks pulls out onto the road. Now, this large truck is blocking both the left and right turning lanes until the light turns green. Because I live in NC, a state which allows a person to turn right at a red light, the right hand lane in front of this large truck is completely open. However, you are blocked behind this truck and the kind person in the car directly in front of you who allowed this to happen. I hope you were able to follow and imagine this scenario. What has happened in this situation is that a person was offering a kind gesture to one person but in doing so, he inconvenienced a countless number of people behind him who now had to wait for this large truck to move.

I am guessing the person who made this kind gesture never knew how the people behind him were bothered. He may have assumed they would be OK with him offering a space in the line of traffic. Perhaps they were. My guess is that it never even occurred to him to think about the people behind him because in his mind he was doing a good deed. Was that rude of him to not think about the others that would also be forced to endure his kind gesture? This same type of situation happened to me in a different scenario as well. I had agreed to pick someone up at a certain time. I pulled up and waited where we were to meet at the agreed upon time. Twenty minutes passed before I saw my passenger coming out of the building. My perturbed attitude prompted him to offer an explanation. He had been assisting someone who had asked him for help with something just as he was walking out the door. I realized that his explanation did not make me any less annoyed because it had disrupted my schedule in which I needed to be somewhere else and was now going to be late.

The point to this post is not to discourage random acts of kindness! It is simply to make you think. Even when you are offering kindness to someone, think about its effect on others too. Will it inconvenience someone else and therefore create the opposite effect than what you intended? If you owe someone money but put $10 into a charity box, is that the right thing to do? If you have agreed to meet someone at a particular time but stop to help someone else when they call, is that OK? Again, this is not at all meant to discourage helping others but instead it was meant to be thought provoking. Before acting, try to determine if there is a way that can help one without effecting another. Can you think of a time or situation in which you were trying to help someone and may not have realized the opposite effect it had on someone else?

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