There is a distinct difference in the underlying meaning of being “kind” vs. being “nice.” Being “nice” implies conformity to society’s definitions of what is pleasing, usually based on a fear of how you are being perceived. Kindness is based on genuine love and compassion for others.
It is nice to compassionately listen to a friend who needs to vent. However when you listen to the same complaints over and over, you are enabling the other’s behavior, which is not kind to either of you. You may be a nice person but not know how to say no.
Each of us has a responsibility for our own thoughts, beliefs and actions. Just as using a crutch for a broken leg long after the break is resolved does not allow for full healing, allowing someone to use you as an emotional crutch is unhealthy. As the listener, being present for the complainer can make you either the crutch (nice) or a tool for self-growth (kind).
When this situation is allowed to continue, you become the go-to for venting emotional energy, which can be draining and can affect your own mood. You may become resentful or angry that you are continually asked to be the crutch. And the person in pain does not learn to deal with that pain in a healthy, self-sufficient manner.
The person who continually complains or rants about a recurring theme creates a cycle of stress in the body, spirit and mind. A belief that he or she is always a victim, or staying focused on all the things that are wrong in life, affects self-esteem, the immune system, and any sense of personal power.
Kindness starts with the self – attending to your own needs first gives you energetic fuel to be present for others. When you can enforce your personal boundaries about what is healthy for you, you are being kind. Kindness empowers the other person as well as yourself, rather than perpetuating unhealthy behavior.