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March 30, 2015

The Cost of Kindness.

Seeking_human_kindness

Shame on you for thinking my kindness is a weakness.

It is not.

My kindness is a choice. A choice I make every day, in every situation, a thousand times over and over.

Trust me, I am aware of the alternatives. I have chosen the alternatives. I still sometimes choose the alternatives, but I prefer not to as often as possible. Choosing kindness is hard. It is challenging. It takes work.

My kindness is a strength.

My kindness is built on a million deep breaths, taken every time I want to snap, say something mean, cutting, witty. The muscles of a million deep breaths carries me through the next time my first thought is less than kind. It gives me the kind of reflexes you need to stop mid-stride and turn in the other direction. My kindness is a strength.

My kindness was honed under the weight of a thousand tragic stories. I have pounded so many kilometers through the memories of people who have been hurt, harmed, tormented, teased, abused.

These stories have left me exhausted, breathless with the vicarious sadness of swimming pools of tears. I have worn out many pairs of walking in other peoples shoes; I have holes in my soul from walking beside them as they resolve, dissolve, rebuild, shed and emerge.

My kindness is backed by lifting the spirits of others. I get stronger every time I choose to give a smile. I have carried the burdens of others as they talk, holding them for just a little while to lighten their load. I can sit with heaviness, with sorrow, with grief, with struggle, not bowed by the darkness. I have lifted the light so that others can see. My kindness is a strength.

My kindness has stretched through a hundred forgivenesses. Big ones. The funny thing about kindness is that once you have it, it seems to invite more and more opportunities to practice. Being known for kindness seems to lead to people giving you lots of chances to practice forgiveness!

I am not the one with the short fuse and a long memory, so perhaps it feels safe to leave your weight on me. Perhaps it feels okay to walk over my needs and feelings. Thank you for giving me so many opportunities to get stronger, to be more kind, to forgive again.

Having said that, I am not an idiot. Each person only gets so many forgivenesses before some walls get built. As Danielle la Porte so brilliantly said, “Open gentle heart, big fucking fence.” I am kind, that does not make me a doormat. Friends, close friends, have been relocated to outside of my heart fence when required. I don’t do it lightly, but it does get done. Kindness is my choice. I am not driven to please regardless or not make waves—I choose this response.

Here are some demons you will have to conquer in order to be able to choose kindness:

Fairness

“But that’s not fair!!” is the natural enemy of kindness. No-one promised us fair. In fact, neither did they make a pact with unfairness. Life simply is. Stuff happens. There is no ledger except the one in your head.

Being right

I grew up in a family where accuracy was valued. If I could be more correct than one of my sisters about something, it was a huge score (made even more so by the fact that I was the youngest, so it rarely happened!). It took me years to shake the habit of correcting other people.

Justification

Along with “but that’s not fair” is “but they did it first” as the enemy of kindness. I have really struggled with this one this week as the guy who inconsiderately overlooked my affection in favor of another woman wants to blithely remain friends. I am taking lots of deep breaths and so far kindness and my natural petulance are running about 50/50.

Learn to apologize

This one I am pretty good at. The distance between my thoughts and my mouth can be measured with the same ruler as ants’ legs. And, because I tend to flow in the moment, I tend to be slightly less than aware of my tactlessness until I lie in bed that night and go over the day’s events in my head. A few of my friends will vouch that I have then called, messaged or turned up the next day full of profuse apologies for things they barely remember.

I am not going to pretend that these demons don’t come up again and again for me. I frequently wail along to the “it’s not fair” song. And some days, I fail completely at choosing kindness. Some days I try and miss. Some days it flows effortlessly.

Interestingly, I am learning that which of these three levels I hit (or any of the myriad in between) does not depend on the external events going on. I can stomp my foot at the lack of fairness of being cut off in traffic and then easily forgive my sister for implying that I may as well not visit her if I am not prepared to babysit her kids. The choice is far more about where I am at than where the world is at.

Maybe I am growing up.

 

Relephant:

An Essential Quote about the Power of Kindness.

 

Author: Tui Anderson

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Wikimedia

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