A while ago, I started a discussion about Kindness and Wisdom. My question was: "Does kindness need wisdom?" Today a message from an old friend triggered an unpleasant memory of mine, which I thought was relevant to this topic: 3 years ago, I broke up with an old friend to whom I had friendship for almost 30 years. The reason seemed to be very simple, I did not satisfy her invitation to dinner.
For years I had problem of shortness of breathe. When this symptom occurred, which used to be very often, I simple had to reject (politely) for all the invitations of any social gatherings. This friend of mine was from my high school. After all these years we ended up to the same place in America, it was a "miracle" which we both appreciated very much. And going to dinner in her home with all her family members was extremely pleasant for me (needless to mention foods were all homemade by her parents and delicious). However, there were time that I could not go. First a few times seemed to be OK, but soon after she did not appear to be happy about this, and often complained about my mental state, implied that it was psychological issue that prevent me from living a normal life, also suggested that I did not like to be with her family. I tired my best to let her understand my situation. Instead of gaining her understanding, I faced judgement, include some from other friends, such as: "You seem to ask too much understanding from friends", "How could others people always understand YOUR special condition?" "What's wrong with inviting you to dinner?" "Is it a bad thing to invite you to dinner?" So at the end I just got too much, and decided to end our friendship by not responding her last invitation (it happened to occur when I was suffering symptom, and later I just did not bother to explain same thing again).
By Chinese tradition, it is utmost important to appreciate others "good will". I also had this "faith" in my life and sacrificed as much as I could to "appreciate" my friends' good will to me. i.e., once this same friend helped me by offering teaching in her After-school. I repeatedly told her that the maximum classes I could have in a row is 2 classes. But she insisted to offer me 3. Somehow for "appreciating" her "kindness", I agreed to try, and immediately got sick after. Even situation like this, did not change my friend's mind, that I was mentally problematic.
Sometime I had to wonder, is it my chronic health problem too extreme for many people to get it? Or it is just I got some friends that lacked basic ability of understanding? What made words like such: "I cannot come", being taken as "I do not want to come"? It is true that this friend of mine is physically very strong, so it would be a little hard for her to imagine how a person who is chronically ill feels like. It's possible that she used her own condition/experience judge mine. I once imagined, if situation reversed, if I had a friend told me she/he were too sick to come to dinner with me, do I have problem to take their words just as they were? I don't think so. Not only that, further more, if my friend got chronic ill like this, I could easily make some foods bringing over, and left without much talking. Of course, I would not ask anyone do such thing to me, but simply to say that this is something not so hard for me to do. Do I really possess virtue of a Saint? I don't think so.
I would not condemn this friend of mine. It is true that she tried to help me. However, what she did only create opposite consequence. And the reason is obvious: her helps were not based on what I needed, but what she believed I needed. I just cannot grant her actions as "true kindness", though she is nice, and the reason for that I think is that she lacks some basic ability of understanding, which by my current understanding is a combination of intelligence and imagination, or simply put: wisdom.