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The Art of Caring


Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash


Caring is a word described on many levels and with varying intensities. At a personal level, we can care for a loved one; on a universal level, we can care for humankind. While there are numerous degrees for caring to be demonstrated, it is unquestionably a trait we long to see in each and every one we know. Is it possible one can exude too much of this highly prized attribute and jeopardize the good of its original intention?


A continual inspiration throughout these treacherous times has been hearing stories of people displaying compassion and concern for those in need. Whether it has been a tragic end to a coronavirus victim or unwarranted destruction under the guise of a protest, many thoughtful individuals have exceeded the limits of kindheartedness and elevated its definition to new heights.


Currently, if there is one quality from which this world would greatly benefit, caring would most definitely be at the top of that list.


It does not, nor should not, require an international emergency for anyone to convey such an encouraging characteristic. There are no restrictions relegated to its impact and no special circumstances limiting its engagement. Nothing can stop a heart from caring save the person in whom that heart resides.


When someone shows us unexpected kindness, it brightens our day and increases our trust in the bestower of it and possibly, a little more in overall humanity. If there were a contest to come up with a word which might contradict “too much of a good thing,” caring would be a great candidate to win the trophy.


When is caring too much?


Let me reiterate, I would never mandate any limitation to acts of caring. It is quite underutilized in today’s society. However, as with other qualities, in some circumstances, an overabundance of it may prove to be detrimental.


As humans, we want what’s best for those we love. Especially as parents, we strive to give our children the best – or at least what we believe to be the best for them. Although our goal is to raise them to be responsible, productive, and caring people, we aren’t always aware of the optimal paths to reach these results. Complicating matters, our own children can react differently to the ways we show our thoughtfulness, requiring different approaches to achieve the same outcome.


Sometimes our busy schedules dictate to us the “most effective course of action,” and we yield to whatever our fast-paced lives decree; while all along, hoping some magic spell summoned by our love will turn things out “the way they’re supposed to be.”


Another common justification for “over caring” is not wanting your child to fail. Disappointment on a child’s face often hurts more than seeing our own failures. Consequently, we pave their perceived unachievable road for them hoping it will give them a sense of accomplishment.


This kind of unintentional yet highly detrimental endeavor occurs outside of parent/child (or mentor/protégé) relationships as well. It happens among couples, friends, coworkers, or between any two people who truly care about each other. The measure of what increases the chances of over caring, ironically, are the more we care about a person, the likelier we are to ignore the tendency to flood them with unhelpful or destructive actions. Perhaps there is no greater paradox than our own ability to love inducing and motivating us to provide toxic levels of caring.


A remedy


When caring reaches harmful levels, it no longer is about benefiting others but has altered into something different; something perhaps more closely aligned with avoidance or incredulity. It doesn’t want to face the possibility of discomfort, embarrassment, or a letdown. The concern once felt for the other person, now seeks to avoid the oncoming catastrophe destined to occur if the same path is being traveled.


No matter what the nature of any relationship is, caring cannot be used to eliminate disaster. We must rely on the trust and character building the relationship developed to help that person overcome any obstacles – all while remembering the possibility of failure remains inevitable. While it’s not a requisite, we can never assume more “caring” will fix the problem and may eventually initiate the opposite effect.


There is an antidote for relationships devolving to this low point. It requires close scrutiny from each person involved. Both the receiver and the giver are guilty of conduct contributing to its demise and changes are needed from both if there is any hope to reestablish a caring relationship.


Unfortunately, the person who made the mistake is often seen as the only one at fault and all blame should fall squarely on their shoulders. Why should the person whose only aim was to stop that person from making a mistake, be responsible for any culpability?

This one-sided belief is one of the most difficult situations to remedy. The “over giver” will refuse to look at or acknowledge any wrongdoing, nearly ruining any chance of healing the relationship. But as with all attempts at self-growth and personal development, we must look at ourselves and become mindful of the changes we must make to overcome our own faults and weaknesses.


There will never be too much caring in the world, and nothing will cause it to go out of style. The key to maintaining the full effect of its positive actions is to remain aware of the original objectives and realize the boundaries exist only to support those virtuous intentions.


My thanks to Maria Teneva on Unsplash for the fitting picture. If you or someone you know is undergoing a similar difficulty, please feel free to reach out to me on this website or email me: john@shamedoctor.com. My goal is to guide you on a journey to renew your relationship no matter what condition it currently resides.