“…To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Let’s just say I wasn’t a happy child, and didn’t have a happy childhood.
As a teenager, things got worse; consequently, an angry teen bloomed into a not-so-delicate young lady. I was rebellious, angry, and even, at times, I dare to say—mean.
I have always been a smart-ass and extremely sarcastic; add to that a messed up past, and you will have a recipe for a walking-talking disaster. Now, I am in my 30s, and looking back, I have no idea how I survived my 20s by hiding my compassionate side—considering it nothing but weakness. I mean, I don’t have to tell you how many times I lowered my guard, but when I did, I was kind of nice, and it blew in my face. We’ve all been there!
A year ago, something happened that really broke me. I was in a serious relationship, and I knew he was the love of my life. We were talking about marriage and a future family. We were together for two years and despite being in a long-distance relationship for over a year, we made it work.
Then, unexpectedly we broke up an the airport on my way back home after a visit. It broke me literally, financially, emotionally, and even physically. The pain was so unbearable that I thought I might die of heartbreak. It was an amazing breakthrough though, because my reaction wasn’t as I expected it to be. There was no anger, no rebellion, and most importantly no negativity…just a lot of pain.
Nobody said reconstruction is painless.
This is how I trained myself to recover my innate kindness:
1. Getting in touch with the child within.
I re-discovered the little girl who was so sweet amidst all the pain she’d experienced during her childhood. I remembered the seven-year-old who greeted people and smiled at her father’s funeral. I want that good person hiding inside to come out, even though I might end up being hurt. Luckily, as I was being rebuilt, little by little, the ugly pieces of the stone-cold wall I had built around my heart and soul started to fall. There is a good person inside all of us begging to be freed.
2. Make a decision every day to be kind.
At work, I used to be stressed and angry most days. Every morning, before leaving to work, I would have the intention that I would have a positive attitude and do something nice no matter how overwhelmed I was and no matter how small the act was. It wasn’t easy when days passed and nothing grand happened, but believe it or not, small acts of kindness every day made me happy.
Those acts which were supposed to cheer other people up, made me ecstatic. It could be something as simple as buying a piece of cake for a colleague who had a rough day, or sharing my lunch with someone who didn’t like what they packed, or just leaving a sticky note with a smiley and a kind message on someone’s desk. Over a month, these small acts became a habit and part of my daily life. By installing the right system, we start functioning kindly automatically.
3. Understanding the concept of karma.
As good things started flowing in my life, I finally understood the concept of karma through personal experience. This alone gave me the push I needed to spread kindness no matter where I went. I started to notice that people’s behavior is nothing but a reaction to my actions. Walls started tumbling down and people opened up to me because I was opening up to them.
4. Understanding others is essential.
I started changing my behavior while driving because let me tell you, I was one of those rude drivers who sped, honked, cussed, and cut other cars off. Yeah, I was pretty much an a**hole. If you got to see me driving now, you’d say I was a soccer mom minus the station wagon. It took me months to be able to play some nice music and relax behind the wheel, but I finally began to do it—and even smile at other drivers. I learned that everyone must be fighting a battle I know nothing about, and it is my duty to be understanding and not only understood.
5. Be willing to change.
The biggest challenge was at home. We can wear a mask all we want, but once we are behind closed doors, in the comfort of our homes, all masks have to fall off. I was literally a horrible monster who would wake a whole neighborhood just because someone forgot to turn the heater on or simply because I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
I had to learn to bite my tongue every time I had something “not-so-nice” to say and boy did I have things to say. I struggled to avoid shooting back even when I am shot at; until I noticed that it was only a war that I created in my mind and, once I don’t shoot back, the shooter gets tired and stops. After all, quarrels are like breaking a dam, once the water starts flowing, it is impossible to stop it—so I avoided touching the dam. I finally had peace in the place I needed it the most.
In conclusion, I learned that some things are innate, but a lot more are acquired through constant training. Training the body might be hard, training the mind is definitely harder, but training the soul is the hardest. Every soul is born pure, clean, and sweet in this world; it becomes tainted with earthly “viruses,” and our task is to restore the kindness and compassion that’s built-in. Kindness is a software that is installed at the time of birth, but even that needs to be restored when lost.
The funny thing is that Selena Gomez’s song, “Kill them with Kindness,” was a hit that month, and I remember the lyrics that went something like, “No war of anger was ever won.” That part of a catchy pop hit became a mantra that I wrote on my bedroom wall and repeated all day long. Then it hit me; we can’t be kind in one place and cruel in another. When it comes to this particular character trait, we can’t be selective.
Author: Rita Wehbe
Image: @gypsieraleigh on Instagram
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Taia Butler
Social Editor: Callie Rushton