Kindness or Codependence?
One of my favorite childhood books was The Giving Tree. I wanted one so badly—an actual giving tree, I mean. Now, I was the only child in a family that was materially abundant, but emotionally bankrupt, so it’s no wonder I fell in love with this story.
As a quasi-adult in recovery from life in general, I sometimes hear people refer to the fabled Giving Tree as the Codependent Tree. This never fails to light a fire in my heart on the subject of kindness and giving versus codependent and unhealthy behavior. In the story, the boy and the tree have a very special relationship. The boy goes to the tree when he needs help, and the tree gives what it can to meet the boy’s needs. As the boy grows up, the tree grows old. In the end, the tree has become a stump, which is just what the boy, now an old man, needs to rest. The tree has given the boy everything it had to help him. It’s a beautiful thing.
In my life, people have often held back from acting kindly and giving themselves to others as a way of avoiding being codependent. Don’t misunderstand me. True codependence, of which I am admittedly inflicted with myself on occasion, can be a truly destructive and unhealthy behavior. Many times I have heard people say they choose not to help someone in need because they “have to take care of themselves.” Other times I have experienced friends turn away from people in the name of teaching them to be more self-reliant. I think it’s the humanness and neediness that repels them because it triggers internal feelings of need and discomfort.
So where is the line? When does kindness become codependence? When are we holding back from opening our hearts to another because their pain scared us? When are we protecting ourselves and others from unhealthy and dysfunctional dependencies?
Until I find the answer for myself, I will keep my heart open to giving and receiving kindness to the best of my ability. When I start cutting my arms off for people, I will re-evaluate.
Everywhere we go, we are bombarded with advertising about the importance of showing gratitude to our mothers on their special day with material gifts ranging from greeting cards to diamond jewelry. The message is clear – we should feel bad if we don’t buy something for mom.
As a mom, the gift I want most from my daughter is much more simple, free and intangible. Reading me a poem, singing a song, serving me breakfast in bed, making me a home-made card, or just spending the day with me doing things I like is all it takes to warm my heart. The love is not in the gift, it’s in the thoughtfulness and care that my child puts into her gesture of gratitude that matters. I think we underrate how much impact acts of kindness have on our mothers, but it’s the best way to show we love them.
I am not sure a mother’s kindness can ever be fully repaid. Perhaps that is all the more reason to adopt a practice and make a habit of reciprocated kindness. I say don’t feel obligated to spend a lot of money on a gift for Mother’s Day. Spend time and energy showing you care. All she really wants is to know she is appreciated.
Kindness is priceless…just like our moms.
That’s what I thought before I moved to California from the Right Coast. The word kindness triggered images of wishy-washy, bleeding-heart suckers. This, of course, says a lot about the person I was when I moved here. It also speaks volumes about how, kindness was (and wasn’t) modeled for me. In short, kindness scared me. It was unfamiliar. I didn’t trust people who were kind to me. Why are they being nice to me? What do they really want? Growing up, I was programmed to take and hoard. Operating from a scarcity mentality, I still find myself subconsciously thinking and acting out on the idea that there is not enough of everything I need or want. If I believe there is not enough to go around, and I am looking to only take care of me and mine, giving and kindness are easily forgotten. I am pretty sure, deep down inside, kindness is my natural way of being and I lost touch with it somewhere along the way. Maybe that is why kindness can trigger me. It reminds me of the essential goodness of that caring child. Can you relate to my story? Does it trigger you? In which ways? Do you have another point of view to share?