Jennifer and I have an ongoing discussion about this saying. “He mistook kindness for weakness.” It is one of those experiences we have both had, but thought was unique to us. We both thought people in our lives had taken advantage of us and we both thought it didn’t happen to other people.
We have both learned that we are not alone in this. We are not alone in this even as survivors of abuse. Abuse conditions us to make ourselves small. We were taught that our wants and needs don’t matter. The needs of the abuser are all that matter and we are disposable.
One survivor who shared her story with me said that her brother had no memory of abusing her. To say the least, that was troublesome and hurtful to the woman. Her therapist told her that her brother saw her like a Kleenex – something he used and then threw away. I think she found some comfort in that.
I thought it was a horrible explanation. I was angry at her therapist for even suggesting that a human being could be viewed as disposable. I still do not like that explanation, but I have learned many people see others as disposable. It clears their conscience and allows them to hurt people. I do not know of many other explanations as to why someone could hurt and abuse others.
People around the world are seen as disposable. When I was living in California, there had been a recent incident of homeless people were being poisoned. Whoever was poisoning them (I do believe the person was caught), did not see the people as people. He or she saw them as a problem; an eyesore that needed to be disposed.
With all the bad things that happen, I believe people are generally good. I think people chose not to be good and mistake the kindness of others for weakness. Whatever part of someone that allows them to victimize another sees the kindness as an opportunity. It is something they can exploit and use to their own devices.
I do not know why they do it, but they do. Some people do not realize they are doing it. Others know exactly what they are doing and do it time and again because they can.
People, not only those who abused me, have seen my kindness as weakness. I try to be kind to people. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes it is a good idea, but many times it is absolutely the worst idea I could have.
I have had friends who acted cute and coy and helpless to get me to help them. I do not like to see others struggle and I like to help people, but I have a limit. If someone keeps asking me to help them but they are unwilling, or unable, to help themselves, I cannot help them anymore. It is hard and it temporarily makes me feel like a bad person or that I’m doing something wrong, but if anyone, a survivor, an acquaintance, a family member, anyone, is unwilling to help themselves, I cannot help them. I do not have the appropriate training to help them if they are unable, and if they are unwilling, there are not many people who can help them.
That sounds harsh, but I have learned that I am not a doormat. I am not disposable.
If someone is working through their pain and doing the hard work of healing, or just trying to learn a different, healthier way to be, I will back them up in any way I can. If they are just expecting me to fix their problems, or handle things for them because they don’t want to or don’t think the work is important enough for them to do, I will eventually realize that this is not a healthy relationship. The person is treating me like a Kleenex, something to use and then toss away.
I matter more than that.
You do too!
We would love for you to join Jennifer and me in the discussion of someone mistaking your kindness for weakness. We have learned we are not alone. We want you to know that you aren’t alone either.
What warning signs have you seen that someone is mistaking your kindness for weakness? What tactics have you learned to extricate yourself from these kind of situations?