What is love and when is it unkind?

June 2022

There are many different types of love - and in most cases, it describes a feeling for others for whom you care about and have good intentions. But within this meaning, there is also a wide range of interpretations - so how do you love and when is this actually unkind to yourself or to others?

Short Term vs Long-Term Benefits of Love

With short-term vs long-term benefits to whether love is unkind, this ultimately depends on the ultimate goal that you have.

In the example of parenting, people don't always think of what they do as a short-term or long-term benefit. And this is even less so because no one likes to think that there are disadvantages to any of their actions. But with children, it's crucial to think about how your love will affect them not only as an immediate consequence but also whether this will help or hinder them in later life.

One person may give their child everything they need to make them happy - and this will extend to more than just the necessities of life. This extreme example is a parent who will buy all the latest gadgets, toys, latest trends and other luxuries to show their child (and possibly to show others) that they care for and love their child. Obviously, this makes the child happy, but over time, they learn to expect this and may not feel the same gratitude and appreciation as the child who doesn't always get what they want. You can argue that the latter child isn't cared for or loved, if their parent doesn't give them these luxuries, and it's within their affordability to do so. But if this is a conscious parenting decision in order to teach the child about appreciation and gratitude, then this would definitely be the winner in the long-term scenario of benefitting the child.

Giving someone what they want is kind - it makes them happy and gives them the feeling that you are caring and loving. However, if the giving is to the extreme where it's eventually not appreciated or reciprocated, then this becomes unkind - not only to the other person, but also to yourself. Your actions become less meaningful when they become expected and it's often the case where the expectation overrides the acknowledgement of your kind intention, even it this isn't deliberate.

Loving from Your Heart vs Your Head

Are you an empath and often feel other people's emotions, including their pain? Sometimes when a person is very empathetic and big-hearted, they can feel a lot of love and sympathy towards others. They can even find it difficult to control these emotions and will take action to help others and do their best to help ease their problems and pain. In fact, not doing something about this would be extremely difficult for them.

It can't be disputed that this is showing kindness and love to others, because often there's a selfless act involved and there's nothing 'in it for them'. However, taking a closer look, helping someone isn't always the kindest thing to do for them.

If a friend of yours is going through a difficult time and can't afford their current lifestyle, do you help them out? Obviously, you wouldn't want them to be forced to live on the streets or starve because they can't afford groceries. But how much kindness do you show and when does this become unkind?

As always, anything to an extreme will eventually have more negative consequences than benefits. If you help to this level, and for an indefinite period of time, then you have to think about what the other person is losing out on, not just how it benefits them for the time being.

Even if your actions are appreciated, help can be taken for granted and will also provide too much of a cushion or safety net for them if the help is offered for longer than it's needed. There may become less motivation for your friend to make the positive change that's needed to allow them to move forward in their life.

Not all perceived negative events are 'bad', just as not all perceived positive ones are 'good'. Everything needs to be balanced and there are consequences to every action when you look at it from different perspectives and over different periods of time. An over-worked and over-stressed person may eventually become physically exhausted and develop health problems that prevent them from continuing on with their chosen lifestyle. But if this causes them to make different, and better decisions for their health, then wouldn't their health problem become a wake-up call that actually triggered a new and improved life for them and for their family?

Balance is Key

When things are unbalanced in life, then problems will arise. An unbalanced diet will create problems with your physical body and also cause emotional and mental concerns. Not exercising at all can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease; likewise, too much exercise can also have serious consequences for your body and brain.

The same applies to how you show love and kindness to others - you need to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of doing so in the short run and over the long run. And it's also important to understand that a bad situation can always be seen as an opportunity.

Now, I don't want to come across as a person who condones watching other people suffer and that it's ok to be unkind. But next time you feel the urge to help out another person, take a moment to think about what your actual goal is and whether there are any consequences to your actions. Sometimes not helping is the kindest action you can take, and this may allow the other person to seek their own help, and on their own terms. After all, a person's journey and life lessons are based on choices and actions that they make, and are not dependent on the opinions and help from others.