[February 9, 2019] There are plenty of practical lessons for leaders to consider in their journey to better understanding people. Goodness is one of those universally desirable attributes that indicate that this is a person who is trustworthy. However, judging people by their kind acts can be misleading if you’re looking for goodness. Some folks display a façade of kindness that hides their true inner being. The lesson I’ve always followed is to be careful and not mistake kindness with goodness.
Two-doors down from me when I lived in Texas, was a wonderful family. They would do anything to assist others and even had their kids helping an elderly couple with upkeep on their lawn. As good Christian people, they believe it was better to give than to receive. I liked them, and we got along well. One day a kind woman came to their door asking if they were interested in a free driveway coating.
A “free” anything from strangers is usually a neon sign that indicates something is amiss. I spoke with the family and advised them to be careful with this stranger. But they insisted that because this “lady” was so kind that they could trust her. As you might guess, things didn’t turn out so well. The family was charged $10,000 for the driveway work; they had signed an agreement that stipulated that amount even when the ‘kind’ woman had told them the work was free.
The lesson here is don’t mistake kindness with goodness. In another town, I knew a family that had a wonderful mother who was smart (she had earned her doctorate in college), articulate, and giving of her time to a local women’s shelter. She was the epitome of what a college-educated professional should be; productive at work, volunteering to help others, etc. One day, she simply walked out on her family. She had decided that she would be better off without her husband (who was a great guy) and her four young children.
I’ve seen this problem often. We mistake kindness for goodness, and the results can be good, but it can also be ugly. We infer, not unreasonably, from a person’s kindness that they are trustworthy and a good person. This is not always the case. Take great care in how we judge people and do not rely on only one side of them.
The Texas family was unable to get out of their agreement with the “kind” woman. This woman showed up in the municipal court and exhibited a great deal of sympathy. The presiding judge was impressed with her and, frankly, so was everyone there. She had the business of being kind down pat. So beware!