I have complained about this tendency in previous articles, as my family has blonde hair and there are plenty of attributes that are assigned to the quality of blonde: blonde hair + woman = dumb. Additionally, the feminine characteristics have often been the subject of writing and research on false characteristic attribution.
My latest complaint is that the qualities of gentleness and kindness are often equated with weakness and passivity. I have prided myself more and more with the qualities of gentleness and kindness. As I grow older, I feel more capable of exercising these attributes often. However, I do not, under any circumstance and for any reason want anyone to see me as weak or passive. Weak and passive people are often challenged by others and purposely controlled by those who seek power and control. There are times when each of us must be weak and passive, however as enduring characteristics they are not the traits I wish to be remembered for.
Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. Kindness is something that I actively give, on the other hand, passivity is not a giving, true passivity is no thing at all; it means no active response. Someone who has the quality of gentle is mild and kind and again, it is a giving, a moderate giving, but still a giving. Weakness is again, somewhat like passivity as there is no action, it is inaction: lacking the power to perform demanding tasks.
I think it is human to make associations, but I think it is a mistake to ignore the distinctions between qualities. If you believe that my kindness equals passivity and will allow you the luxury of pushing me towards your goals with the ignoring of my goals, you are quite mistaken. You may think that my kindness makes me weak and that gives you the ability to tell me how to be or what to do; that is a mistake. I have no need to scream or curse, or yell, I simply go my own way. It is good to take heed of this information about distinctions.
Often, in the workplace, bosses short cut to getting things done without truly listening to the staff. The staff are trying to be good “soldiers” and follow the direction of the manager. However, when staff make an attempt to give good feedback to a manager, they are often cut off. Bosses mistake compliance with weakness and should not. Many staff will simply go underground with their feelings and thoughts. This underground can develop into a powerful energy force that collaborates against the manager.
This system can and does happen in the home or in other family collaborations. That person with power and control forgets that real ‘control’ is a result of a positively negotiated system of relationships and power structures that take into account complex strengths and weaknesses.
I started writing this article because I think we are mistaken when we ‘clump’ attributes together or associate them into a single characteristic. Then I shifted to discussing power in relationships. I believe that the assessment of characteristics in others sometimes leads us to behavior that is not quite right. It is much more healthy and more realistic to remain open and to enjoy what people bring to the relationship in the moment that the relationship is occurring. Associations with the past and with like qualities “clumped” together make it difficult for us to focus our attention and our awareness to the moment. If we are in a position of power, we may lose out on all of the individuality that the other person brings to the relationship. We may be so obsessed with our own point of view and the other person’s acquiescence that we miss the other person completely.