One of the first lessons we learn from our parents, religion, media, teachers and friends is the importance of treating people well. The golden rule is to treat others the way you would like to be treated and there are many fables and parables that illustrate the importance of treating others well.
We can see the villains in these stories very clearly; they’re the self-serving sycophant, ready to sacrifice anyone for their own selfish desires. They don’t care about other people and they lack empathy. Overall, they stink.
Naturally, we gravitate to being the good guy, the righteous person. We want to ensure that we’re supporting our fellow human beings. We’d be (literally) damned if we ever became the villains in these tales as old as time.
But while you might avoid becoming a selfish prick, it is very possible that you may still suffer and these moral lessons can be taken too far.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions and this is no different.
Some of us develop a narrative that we’re supposed to treat people nice, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Furthermore, there is a consequence to this type of thinking. If you have the notion that you’re supposed to treat people nicely, you open yourself up to narcissistic abuse. By treating everyone nicely, you attract various types of people into your life. Some good, some not so good.
A better solution is to be selective in how you treat people. As a baseline, be respectful of others. But you do not have to extend a certain level of warmth to everyone you meet, and I suggest that you don’t. Not everyone is deserving of it and as I mentioned before, some will take advantage of you.
The person who treats everyone with such a warmth might be a people-pleaser, but not necessarily. This type of person simply believes that everyone is inherently good and that that means they should be treated with great courtesy.
While it may be true that people at their core are decent people, it doesn’t change the fact that people have a wide variety of psychological problems and seek your warmth because they are cold inside and cannot help but to dim your flame and give you frostbite when they overstay their welcome.
If they stay long enough, they can infect you. Then you might grow cold and seek out warmth yourself. You become what you hate simply because you were too gregarious. It doesn’t seem fair, but if you throw your pearls to pigs and you give warmth to anyone and everyone, including those who cannot give you warmth back, prepare for trouble.
Being a people-pleaser is an aggressive form of this. Such people have a low self-esteem that forces them to bend over backwards for everyone. They can’t say no because they’re desperate to be liked.
These type of people, let’s call them moralists, they have a strong moral code of conduct. They want to be the change that they want to see in the world. And indeed, some people may actually copy them. But some simply cannot and take advantage of the moralist’s kindness and cordiality.
The moralist is fortunate because they will have an easier time in escaping the clutches of these selfish folks than the people-pleaser because they actually like themselves, but they will come to a point where having attracted so many selfish people, they may make the choice to be less friendly and balmy to everyone. They learn to *gasp* discriminate.
Usually, we read coverage of the extremes — the co-dependent or people-pleaser and the narcissist or energy vampire. Folks such as the “moralists” as I’ve labelled them aren’t written about as much. But I believe several people have a bit of a moralist inside of themselves.
They ascribe to be on the right side of history and to be oh-so-loving, not because they want to be liked, but because they want the world to be better.
Nevertheless, some scrutiny of the levels of warmth such people dole out would be wise. We need such people and their warmth and it would be a shame if they squandered it where it would be wasted.
Those who work in charity and psychology know that they have to maintain certain boundaries for the sake of themselves and their clients. The moralist should do the same.