Saturday, March 2, 2013

Knowing When to Say NO:

"A 'NO' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'YES' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble."
-Mahatma Gandhi 

We all know those people. The ones who are so kind to others that they neglect their own needs. The agreeable ones who passively shy away from opinions, not wanting to dance on anyone's toes.The sycophantic, brown-nosing, "doormats" whose kindness is mistaken for weakness and is frequently taken advantage of. The ones who are sweet enough to say yes but not strong enough to say no.

In a perverse way it seems admirable. Kindness makes the world go 'round and the gift of giving is a lofty and noble trait worthy of praise and applause. But if left unchecked, seemingly positive actions can actually be detrimental and irresponsible. Maybe even too nice, these do-gooders can quickly slip into resentfulness if they don't find a balance.  

The truth is we all have an internal world. We live with our own thoughts, desires, responsibilities, and troubles. Therefore, we are responsible for ourselves and our wellbeing. Our own priorities come first. It would be foolish, for example, to try and give counsel to others if you have not yet achieved mental health or for a country to give large sums of foreign aid if their own citizens need assistance.       

Narcissistic or egocentric? Negative. It's called self-advocacy. We need to be assertive and forthcoming because - the harsh reality is - in real life, other people may not be as generous and helping as we are to them. While it may have negative connotations, a self-advocate knows that in today's cutthroat and highly competitive world every individual needs to look after themselves and take life into their own hands. When put into perspective, this individualistic approach is healthy and responsible and highlights how special kindness and generosity truly are.  

It's so easy to love a stranger. But If you really want to love humanity, first love YOURSELF. Then find it in your heart to love your family, friends, classmates, co-workers, community members, and so on. First love, clean-up, care for, and fix your internal world before you set out on the journey to save the planet. Focus on yourself, then pan out to others.

The knowledge is elementary but in practice it may be challenging, especially when emotions are involved. For caregivers, philanthropists, teachers, parents, friends, lovers, and countless others, the idea of unbalanced giving and generosity can be horrific. Codependency can be maddening and caving to the pressure of theatric cries and pleading can be embarrassing and frustrating. While everything is relative, trusting your instincts and confidently making a judgement call can help you properly provide for those in need and subsequently save your sanity. As the Chinese proverb goes: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." 

One of the niceties of being nice is knowing when and how to exercise kindness. When generosity, sycophancy, and submissiveness become routine it can lead to a lifestyle of pressure, expectations, and codependency.

A YES MAN, IF UNABLE TO SAY NO, IS NOT A FREE MAN. Don't fall into a trap. Find an equilibrium and GIVE it all you got.

"The oldest and shortest words - 'yes' and 'no' - are those which require the most thought."


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    1. Thank you and I appreciate your positive feedback!

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      - D