What or who is your allowed exception from trying to be a better person?
I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about: You try to live your life a certain way and hold to a moral code until Cathy at work does something to get under your skin—or maybe it’s your mother or that racist uncle you have to see every Thanksgiving.
Every day you wake up and set an intention for your day and the positive attitude and compassion you want to cultivate, but as soon as you feel triggered by one of these scenarios, all positivity and compassion are out the window, and we tell ourselves that our reaction was okay, maybe even deserved.
I’m not suggesting that perfection is possible and that reacting and getting angry aren’t allowed because, just in case you haven’t heard it yet today, perfection is not possible. Reacting and getting angry are normal human responses.
What I am suggesting is that we should not allow any person’s behavior to change who we want to be. For certain difficult people in our lives, perhaps we get vicious and angry as we go on hour-long vent sessions with our best friend about this awful human being and how they’re intentionally trying to make our life miserable. Or, maybe it’s more passive than that, and we find ourselves agreeing with people or things we typically wouldn’t, just to keep the peace.
Passive agreements are so dangerous to authenticity. Is that being true to who we are? Who we want to be?
I pride myself on being authentic. I stand up for myself when snide remarks are made about the LGBTQIA+ community or feminists, and I delve into hard conversations with friends and family rather than staying quiet to not rock the boat.
I have not always been this person, but I have done the work both in and out of therapy to finally become who I want to be: Authentic. Compassionate. Outspoken.
But we all have our exceptions, which are usually rooted in either past trauma or fear. After decades of keeping the peace, am I willing to have the hard conversations with my mother to reflect on our troubled relationship and the events that brought us here?
Can I sit across the room from the other parent in my child’s life and discuss why there is hostility between us, and problem solve on how we can move forward? More than just having these difficult conversations, how do I engage in them with kindness and understanding?
The only path forward is to recognize that we cannot allow exceptions to who is deserving of our kindness and compassion.
We are all human beings deserving of understanding, kindness, and compassion. If there are truly people in our life who don’t deserve these things, then extend that kindness to yourself and do not give those people space in your life anymore.
Who are you? Who do you want to be? How are you going to get there?