Mean People Suck.
Can we all agree on that much?
Also: we can all be mean people sometimes. We have a bad night’s sleep, everything goes wrong before we even leave the house, the traffic is atrocious, we are stressed, busy, pissed off and too exhausted to do anything about it.
We get offended, so we turn around and offend others with our thoughtless words, rude behavior and cutting sarcasm.
Just as an act of kindness radiates joy and love out into the universe, a mean-spirited one can often spiral into misery and hate.
This is not to say you must be a shiny, happy person all the time. It is absolutely essential to process intense emotions, including the ones we would often rather repress—fear, anger, a sense of desperation. But in a healthy way. That is, not spewing our meanness on others.
However, the world can use more kind, gentle, compassionate people. Here are 28 gentle reminders of how to be a more human human.
1. Smile more.
It seems simple and maybe contrived, but it’s true. Turning that frown upside down makes us (and all who see our smile) feel better.
Be genuine. Let your happiness shine through on your face. When something amuses, awakens or pleases you, show it with a wide, toothy smile.
2. If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
3. Say please and thank you.
Por favor y gracias. S’il vous plaît et merci. Good, old-fashioned manners are always in style.
4. Manners require time, and nothing is more vulgar than haste. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
5. When someone irritates you, take a breath and imagine that they (and every single human being on earth) are in your family…
And even if they’re not, we’re all human, aren’t we? We are all mammals with lungs and minds and hearts and bones. Let’s be kinder and gentler with our fellow beings.
7. Meditate on the monkey mind.
We all have it. Jumping around, swinging from the trees, stealing fruit, unable and unwilling to be still or quiet.
Using our mental activity as the focus of meditation makes us realize how thoughts arise from and disappear back into nothingness, unless we choose to get involved in any certain train of thought.
This, in turn, makes us more compassionate because we learn that nature of our mind is the nature of the human mind, and we are all kinda crazy.
8. You have to go on and be crazy. Craziness is like heaven. ~ Jimi Hendrix
9. Take a vacation.
Nothing like it for getting perspective on what’s important in our lives. If you can’t afford to go far, at least take a short trip. Travel someplace new and unknown. At the very least, lie in a hammock for a couple hours.
10. It is better to travel well than to arrive. ~ Buddha
11. Think before you speak. (Or write.)
Pause. Consider how the person (or audience) to whom you are speaking may react to your words. It’s fine to be controversial and debate and express our opinions but we can intend to do so in an open-minded, considerate, respectful way.
Lacing a comment with biting sarcasm or expletives, for example, makes it harsh and offensive to many.
Practice wise speech. Make what you say honest, helpful and timely.
12. I have often regretted my speech, but never my silence. ~ Publilius Syrus
13. Give your undivided attention.
Really, just listening to someone who needs to communicate—listening attentively, without judging and with compassion—this is the best gift we can give another.
14. I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else. ~ G.K. Chesterton
15. Practice metta.
Mantra cheat sheet: “May all beings be safe. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be happy. May all beings be free from suffering.”
16. Through lovingkindness, everyone and everything can flower again from within. ~ Sharon Salzberg
17. Know what you can let roll off your back.
As a third grade teacher, I deal with a lot of kids tattling on each other. If the complaint seems trivial, I often say, “Can you ignore it?” And they usually say yes and move on with their lives.
There are too many battles to be fought. Lighten up. Let go of all but the most essential battles.
18. Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. ~ Mark Twain
19. Focus on softening in yoga. And by yoga, I mean life.
Soften your heart. Soften your voice. Soften your jaw. Soften your shoulders. Soften your gaze.
Be softer and fluffier. More teddy bear, less grizzly beast.
20. Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart. ~ Washington Irving
21. Read the work of a kind, gentle, compassionate author.
Their words and teachings will inspire you on this path of kindness.
22. Laugh, a lot.
23. Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it. ~ Bill Cosby
24. Don’t be a know-it-all.
25. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ~ Shunryu Suzuki
26. Recall that we are all interconnected. We all share so much in common.
27. Wherever you are, you are one with the clouds and one with the sun and the stars you see. You are one with everything. That is more true than I can say, and more true than you can hear. ~ Shunryu Suzuki
28. Last but not least, a favorite excerpt from Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh:
If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-“ with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be.
Some days are better than others. Can we be kind and compassionate—can we inter-be—even on our worst days?
Let’s all practice more kindness, gentleness and compassion to make our lives and the world better.
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: elephant archives