My dad always has this saying that he learned in the Marine Corp, that spoke to the Corp's general sense of decency. "Don't mistake my kindness as a sign of weakness" was the phrase, and it spoke to the idea that a Marine can be kind and caring, but try and take advantage of him and he will kick your ass inside and out. The notion of being nice to people is not new, nor is it really an option. We ought to be treating each other with kindness, to exist as a civil society. But what happens when people use your kindness as a stepping stone for their benefit?
Every day, we try to be nice to each other by doing nice things, being considerate, and looking out for others. As a society, we try to be civil about our coexistence, but realizing that life isn't perfect, we generally try to help each other out. The idea is that if enough people help enough other people, life can invariably become a smooth running ordeal. By being nice, we put our trust in other people that they will
- Appreciate the gesture
- Pay it forward
- Not take advantage of our kindness
The concept of appreciation relies solely on the person receiving the gesture. If I opened the door for you, you could either say thank you, or you could complain that I didn't open it wide enough. Appreciation means taking into account that the gesture wasn't mandatory, but that you did it out of kindness. And because you were kind enough, it would be nice of the receiver saw the value of the gesture. Unfortunately, too many of us don't even acknowledge gestures of kindness as much as we should, and ultimately that ignorance can spread like a virus.
To pay a gesture of kindness forward is a great way to show appreciation for kindness. There are few things as simple in life as doing something nice for others. In fact, making it a habit to be nice makes us better human beings, and allows our trust in others to grow. By reciprocating kindness to society, was spread the habit with people around us, making both our local environment and the world at large a better place to be in.
But then there are opportunists.
There are people out there who take advantage of the kindness of others, especially those who are nice, caring folks. Opportunists see kind people as targets, the way hyenas pick out sick animals in a herd. It's a sinister reality that for every person who is kind, there is at least one person who is planning to take advantage of a kind person. Opportunists have no shame, and no sense of humanity. They are every-man-for-himself types who follow lifeboat ethics, and go to sleep at night not caring that they screwed someone.
A company I once worked was is a prime example of opportunism. This company had lots of great, hard working employees who cared about each other, and the organization. The company touted its great products, and at company parties the management acted like cheerleaders, urging employees to "Work harder towards making the company great!". After 2 years of hard work, the employees were "rewarded" for their caring and hard work, by learning that management had sold the company for a portion of its real value - at a sale price that yielded millions of dollars to company officers, while employees literally got pennies per share for all of their hard work. The employees trusted that management was watching out for them, when in fact management was using the employees to fill their pockets with cash. To add insult to injury, the CEO took his money and left as soon as the deal was done, and employees were asked to "keep working hard".
When we allow opportunists to dictate what happens in our society, we are giving them a license to use others, and to treat people like crap while the opportunist benefits. And, in all of this, we "good" people excuse the behavior because we are nice, and we are forgiving. But forgiveness should be reserved for people who deserve it, and opportunists need to be called out for what they are - fast talkers who are constantly thinking of ways to use other people. It's time for our society to put opportunists in check...
... or else watch as our society, our workplaces [and our country continues to] turn into "us versus them"...