February 22, 2016

The 1 Thing that will Ensure our Relationships Last.

Flickr/Delphine Devos

“Be kind. No matter what happens, you will always be glad you took the high road.” ~ Steve Horsmon


As soon as I let anger enter my mind and then exit my mouth, I regret it.

I regret it in the moment, and I regret it even more later.

You see, even when we don’t want to be kind—even when we are blind with anger (actually, especially then)—usually, that anger is coming from some other, deeper emotion, feeling or cause.

For me, anger usually presents itself first and right up front, masquerading as a sense of injustice, so I feel that I must defend myself against the “attacker.” But I am finally learning to hold my tongue and unpack the anger before letting that first quick burst of anger flow out of me in words.

When I do this, I find that my anger nearly always comes from feeling like a failure. And upon inspection and conversation with the “attacker,” I find it has never been their goal to convey that I am a failure.

So for years, I have been forcing myself to get into the practice of saying kind things and doing kind things. The difficult part for me is to have the self-discipline to actually do that—to walk that talk—even when I don’t want to and even in difficult conversations or confrontations.

It is especially difficult to do when I don’t want to—when I get triggered into anger and want to allow myself the “luxury” of not having to do any mental and emotional digging in myself before speaking.

It does indeed satisfy some selfish, childish, impulsive need I have here deep inside me, when I simply let anger instantly burst out—unfiltered. But later, I regret it so profoundly, that I have learned that this first, instant gratification of having “spoken my mind” is so not worth that rash impulse.

It requires self-discipline. It requires me actually, physically putting my hand over my mouth sometimes. It is choosing to control my impulses—to say nothing or say only kind things. It is not an easy thing for me.

I came into my present relationship as a much older—and hopefully kinder—person, determined to not make the same mistakes as my younger self. And do I always accomplish this? Gawd, no!

But I am more aware—and I recognize when I’ve failed myself.

And it really is myself I am failing—not him and not the relationship. It is me who decides my own standards and ethics, and when I make a stupid decision to go ahead and be mean or passive aggressive or speak in anger, it is I that judges myself most harshly later.

As soon as I let anger exit my mouth, I regret it. I regret it in the moment, and I regret it even more later.

Being kind means not pointing out when I think someone else is wrong when it’s not important if they’re wrong—when their being wrong will not harm them or me. And when it does matter—when they are in some sort of danger because of being wrong, it means pointing it out very gently and carefully.

It means I don’t have to be right at someone else’s expense or just because I have some ego-based need to be right. It means letting someone else be right. It means letting someone else feel good and not feeling like I have to ruin that in any way—even when I don’t feel good, and it rubs salt in my own emotional wounds to hear about their happiness.

It means cleaning up the dog’s vomit as cheerfully and matter-of-factly as possible, remembering how horrible it feels to throw up.

For me, it means remembering others and asking about their issues without them having to remind me. It means paying attention. It means forcing myself to come up and out of my introverted-ness enough to really see and hear them and to offer them my empathy—and even sympathy—when they need that.

It means finding something good, handsome, pretty, sexy, sweet, beautiful competent, funny or laudable about someone, and then telling him or her about that. It means finding and speaking these things even when I am angry or irritated with them. It is seeking and finding gratitude, even when I have to force myself to find gratitude—to force myself out of my own irritability.

It is choosing to be gentle and kind (even with gritted teeth) when I find myself in the middle of that same old argument with the same person, feeling the same old (angry, frustrated!) way for the “nth” time, knowing we may not—even this time—make any headway toward resolution.

It means choosing my words—emphasis on certain words—and tone very carefully when I am angry or stressed out. It means actively using the measuring stick of, “Is saying this helpful in some way?” And if it’s not helpful, then simply flat-out refusing to say it.

It means taking a stand against hurting anyone—myself included—because it is going to hurt me greatly later to look at the regret at having not been kind. It means giving up blame and remembering forgiveness.

“Blame is described as a way to discharge pain and discomfort.” ~ Brene Brown

Sometimes, it may mean saying nothing at all. Or it may mean leaving. It may mean never going back, because it is certainly not kind to continue to let myself be hurt by someone by staying in an abusive, hurtful situation or relationship.

But it also may mean leaving and only coming back when I am not angry and can speak without anger.

It also might mean sometimes staying and listening to someone else’s anger, without getting triggered into anger myself—which is so difficult for me! When someone is expressing anger at you, do you instantly get angry in return? I often do, even though I believe that is no good reason to ever get angry.

“I’ve come to believe that kindness is the closest one can get to God.” ~ Peggy Christiansen

I have been working for years on changing the deplorable (embarrassing) habit I have of saying things in a passive aggressive manner. Like saying something seemingly innocent and kind, but saying it in just the right way, so that it will actually make that person feel guilty instead. Sick.

So many times, I would find myself angry but too much of a coward to own it, and say it directly—so I would “say” it by a few well-placed words or word emphasis instead.

Passive aggressive much?

Years ago, I made and enacted the executive order for myself that I’m not allowed to do that anymore.

It takes paying very careful, close attention to my own motives—especially when I am angry or feeling threatened in some convoluted, habitual way. It is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, this careful, self-inspection of motive each time I get triggered.

I try to be gentle in my digging, and I try to be kind to myself too. That is the most difficult, frustrating part for me. So kindness also means walking that long, dark road of forgiving myself when I “fail” and can’t follow all of my own, bloody, self-imposed rules for how to be kind.

So, what is the one thing that will make your relationship—and indeed, all your relationships (including the very intimate, difficult one with self)—last?


“My religion is kindness.” ~ Dalai Lama XIV


Author: Grace Cooley

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/Delphine Devos

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