Be Kind Instead of Right

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a fresh start, every week. Mondays are our do-overs, our reset buttons, our first days. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

For me, this Monday is off to an about average start. I ran a bit late, I had a meeting, I have a lot on my mind, but I’m motivated. I feel good, but I could use a dose of caffeine to keep the momentum going through lunch. I just have to get through this week. After that, I’ll have nearly two weeks off of to do whatever I want. I can do this.

“I am practicing being kind instead of right.”

— Matthew Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook

One habit I have been working hard to break is my need to be right all the time. I used to argue a lot. I used to but in and correct people, give my two cents, and I kept talking until the other person yielded and admitted I was right. I worked hard to win. I dropped facts, science, statistics, and lead people along the lines of my own thoughts and feelings to convince them. No matter how angry the other person got, no matter what insults they threw or what they said I kept at it.

I thought I was helping. I thought I was teaching people. I thought people would appreciate what I was doing. I wasn’t helping, though, and I doubt anyone one looks back and thinks fondly on that time that short girl berating them about evolution, healthy diets, the meaning of obscure words, or their brand of politics.

Looking back I am sure I didn’t improve anyone’s life by acting the way I did. When has forcing knowledge or opinions on anyone ever made them feel better?

Even though steered clear of direct insults, I often took on a condescending tone. I talked down to people. I laughed at them. I talked to them like they were simple and stupid. I thought them all backward or falling behind. I didn’t know it then, but I thought I was better than them too. I thought my love of science and my curiosity meant I had a right to educate and dismiss people. I thought I had a right to force everything I’ve learned onto the people around me. I was not acting in kindness. I just wanted to be right, even when no one was arguing with me.

What made me unkind was that I never just listened. There was never a time that I wasn’t judging someone or trying to change them in some way. I didn’t make people feel smart or important. I was pretty awful sometimes.

For awhile now I have been trying to do things differently. I have been trying to listen. I have been trying to let other people teach me things. I have been trying to keep my mouth shut every once in a while.

I can tell you that not only am I sure that the people around me feel better, but that I feel better!

It’s a huge relief not to feel the need to force myself on people. It’s nice not to spend so much energy on trying to bend people in the direction I want them to go. It’s nice to wait until someone asks me what I think. It’s nice to just accept people and let them bend me a little from time to time.

This week, let people be wrong, let yourself be wrong. This week, just accept people. Listen a little more, keep your opinion to yourself, and stop trying to force people to think, believe, and know what you do.

Try not to think of people as stupid just because they see things differently. Try not to talk down to anyone or dismiss their perspective.

This week, try being kind instead of right.

***

If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter on life, love, and suffering :)

Featured image via Unsplash

Advertisements

Be Kind to One Another

I regularly like to watch videos or animations that put the universe into perspective for me. I like things that remind me how small and fragile we are. It is the one thing that keeps me from becoming cruel.

It sounds strange but I don’t think people realize how easy it is to become a cruel, uncaring person. Cruelty is just as much human nature as love and in order to keep it in check, we must remind ourselves that other human beings are just as important and precious as us. We have to remember just how lonely we are in this universe, and just how much we need each other.


This Earth is our home and it’s all we have. All the humans on this God forsaken rock are all the humans there are. Each one is unique and so each one is special, and yet we treat each other as if we are nothing at all. People hurt other people every single day. We treat our things better than we treat each other. To me, this makes very little sense. Each of us only has one life, and that life is ticking away at an alarming rate. Every time you are cruel to someone you take a tiny piece of their happiness that can never be gotten back. You make a tiny part of their life less joyful and that can never be undone.

Life is hard enough and the world is so full of suffering we should all be doing our tiny part to make it easier, safer, happier. We all feel so lonely, so disconnected from everyone around us. We bare our own little pain and carry all our emotional baggage and every cruel word or mean look is added to the pile. How many have you contributed to? How much hurt have you doled out?

“Be kind, because everyone is having a really hard time.”

Plato

I believe each person, because they are special and only have one life, is entitled to as much joy as can be had on this planet. Unfortunately greater society does not agree. Oh, most people say the do and yet many take great satisfaction in infringing on the joy of as many people as they can. Most of these people don’t understand what they are doing but I find it to be a great crime against nature to be cruel to others.

Cruelty is a part of who we are and what we are capable of and we make bad choices sometimes. We say mean things out of anger, frustration, and broken-heartedness. We can be selfish and self-centered, and forget that other people feel harsh words and brutal indifference just as acutely as we do. We use our cruelty to others as a means to build ourselves back up. We wrongly think that our ability to inflict pain confirms our strength and control over our lives.

I believe the greater show of strength and control is to be kinder and gentler to your fellow humans. It takes a great deal of confidence, security, and self-awareness to treat others with kindness when you can. It shows great moral character to be able to put your own feelings aside and focus on the feelings of others before your own. It shows that you understand the value of a person and have chosen to make a positive impact on the world around you.

But even those who are unkind deserve our kindness too. They are just as precious as everyone else and through the kindness of others they might find their way. Often it takes just having one person in our lives who is selfless and loving of all human beings to show us that it is ok to be vulnerable and help others. It’s sad but we have to learn again to understand each other. We have to learn that it is not only ok, but good to be kind whenever possible, and, as the Dalai Lama said, it is always possible.

“Be kind to one another. Bye, bye.”

Ellen DeGeneres

Monday Motivation – Make Someone’s Life Better

It’s that time of the week again, it’s Monday, the beginning of the work week and time to get motivated!

This week my goal is to try to make the lives of the people around me a little better.

These past few weeks a lot of people in my life, family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances, have shown me a lot of love in celebration of my 30th birthday. This week I’d like to return the favor by letting them know that I appreciate them.

I’m not sure how I’m going to do that yet but I think just telling them that the attention meant a lot and I appreciate everything they have done is a good place to start.

I often forget how much my friends and family care about me but every year they remind me again. This year I had some new friends and I thought maybe since I didn’t know them very well they wouldn’t show up or care but they did, they really did.

Not only did they show up but some brought gifts and they all told me how happy they were to have me be apart of their lives. I don’t think I can ever express to them how much that means to me but I have to try.

Beyond telling them how much I appreciate them I also want to let them know if any of them ever need anything from me I’m here for them.

I can be an ear to vent to, a shoulder to cry on, or even dispense some advice of needed. I can make them laugh and let them know I see them and care about them.

Is humans are social creatures and every relationship is a two-way street. Do your best to make the lives of people around you better and I promise the favor will be returned two-fold.

You will have strengthened a friendship and doing good will make you feel good too.

Have Courage and Be Kind

Over the weekend my girlfriend and I went to see the new Cinderella movie. It isn’t the usual kind of movie I would pick but there wasn’t much else out that looked exciting and my girlfriend thought it might be good so off we went. I did enjoy the movie but it’s not like it was a new telling of Cinderella’s story. It was exactly what I thought it was going to be, cute and sweet and cheesy.

This isn’t a full review, instead I want to focus on one big problem I had with the story. I want to focus on the central message of the film which was a bit of advice Cinderella’s mother gave her before she passed away. She told young “Ella” that in all things she must only “have courage and be kind”. I liked that and I identified with it. I do my best to be kind, and I am learning to have more courage.

The problem here is that in the movie, Cinderella seemed to interpret “be kind” as “be passive” and she showed no courage at all in dealing with her step-mother and step-sisters. She seemed content to just let people walk all over her and take her home and her belongings. She let them talk down to her and make her into their own live-in servant without even one word of protest, telling herself that her mother would want her to be kind.

And this illustrates my biggest issue with just about all Disney movies. They perpetuate the idea that girls should do as they are told simply because it is the right thing to do. Who says it is right to be a doormat? She should have told them no. No, no, no, you cannot take my room, or rip apart my mother’s dress, or forbid me from going to the ball. She said nothing and acted passive with everyone around her.

I think the message could be presented in a better way though. I would argue that, in the movie, as much as Cinderella tried to follow her mother’s advice in her dealings with other people, one thing I noticed was that she never applied the advice to herself. She was not kind to herself by allowing her step-mother and step-sisters to treat her so badly, and she never had to courage to tell them so.

I wish they had tried to teach a better lesson. We must be kind to ourselves and not let ourselves be used as a means to other ends. We must have courage to stand up for ourselves and let other people know how they must treat us. I also think we can be kind in the way we do this and that others will respond to our courage and kindness. I think I rather have seen a movie with that message.

So instead I am telling you here and now to go forth, and have courage and be kind. First for yourself, and secondly for others. Do not let others tell you how you should be or what you ought to do, that is not courage. Do not let yourself be taken advantage of, that is not kindness.

And I would also add, do not wait on some prince to come save you from your crappy life, go out and find your own happiness.

Compassion for the Less Fortunate, for the Undeserving, and for Yourself

com·pas·sion (kəm-păsh′ən)
n.
Deep awareness of the suffering of another accompanied by the wish to relieve it.

I have always been a naturally sensitive and compassionate person, sometimes to a fault. I feel the ills of the world as if they were my own and walk through life feeling alone in it. It hurts me deeply to see so much suffering and unfairness and my one wish is that more people could see things differently and try a little harder to feel the love and compassion I do.

We should all try to feel more compassion for those who have less than us, for those who we feel are undeserving of compassion, and for ourselves. Even small acts of compassion can make this world a more pleasant place to exist in and give each of us more joy and purpose.

Compassion for Those Less Fortunate

“True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.”

— Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

There is an idea, particularly here in America, that through hard work and dedication everyone can have heath, wealth, and happiness. The American Dream. And if you have not achieved the American Dream it is through some fault in your own character and it is your job to fix yourself and pull yourself up. This idea does not take into account that we all don’t start out with the same opportunities and that there are not more obstacles on the path for some than for others.

There are people suffering from health issues and/or mental health issues. There are those who belong to groups that are systematically discriminated against. There are those for whom the education system has failed them. There are those who grew up in abusive homes or foster homes. There are those for whom pure chance and a lack of luck have put them in positions where they are now poor regardless of their past hard work or grades.

Some people just happen to live in countries with few natural resources or are rife with war and corruption and through events outside of their control, there are no jobs and they live with nothing and no opportunities.

There are many reasons why people are poor and less fortunate, more than I could list. But most of the reasons are things that hard work and “gumption” can’t get people out of. These types of obstacles require a group effort. Each of us needs to stop and look inside ourselves and find some empathy for our fellow human beings. Remember, we all belong to one big global family. Think about that and see if you don’t find some love for your fellow man. When you find that love, use it to make someone’s life better.

We are all human, we bleed the same blood, we cry the same tears, and we feel the same emotions. In this great big universe all we have is each other and we ought to start appreciating each other and lifting ourselves up, together. There is nothing we all couldn’t do if only we could love one another.

I could argue that helping the less fortunate is the morally right thing to do but that would get us into some tricky philosophical stuff. Instead I will only say that by each of us helping those in need in whatever capacity we can, by doing this we increase the happiness of the whole world. And who wouldn’t want to live in a happier, more compassionate world? Of course we all would, but it all has to start with each of us doing our part.

Compassion for Those Undeserving

“But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?”

― Mark Twain

You might be thinking that there are those for whom compassion is undeserved. I would have to say I disagree with that. I believe the people who we have decided are too mean, uncaring, unmerciful, or out right evil, are the people who are most in need of compassion. I would argue that they got that way from a lack of compassion shown to then in the first place. Or maybe they were taught that compassion is the same as weakness. They only need to be shown the joy that can come from each of us choosing to care about our fellow human beings.

I think these people operate from a place of ignorance. They have bought in to the lie that each of us stands alone in this world and that we should use other human beings as a means to our own ends. They do not see themselves in others and so cannot feel true love for anyone but themselves. On some level they don’t believe other people could have the same wants and needs or feel the same hurts and sorrows.

Showing a someone that other people are deserving of their consideration and compassion is a hard thing to do. They cannot easily see past the gains they have received by trampling on others. They cannot easily see that there is so much more to be gained from kindness. That cannot easily see that a joy that is shared is the best kind of joy there is. We have to make special efforts to change their minds but that effort starts with showing them compassion first.

We have to lead them back to love through example. Once they feel the gratitude of compassion shown they can make the leap to feeling the joy of compassion given.

Compassion for Yourself

“If your compassion does not include yourself, It is incomplete”

—Buddha

We all know self-compassion is quite a hard thing to accomplish. For many of use caring for friends and family is easier that caring for the ourselves. We believe that self-love is arrogant and self-indulgent. We believe that we don’t deserve to love ourselves but we do. I want the world to be a kinder and happier place but it isn’t yet and for some of us love and kindness is not something we can get from others, so we must give it to ourselves.

Self compassion means not being so hard on yourself. It means knowing yourself and not judging yourself. It means forgiving yourself and helping yourself get up and try again. It means comforting yourself and protecting yourself. It means doing all the things you want someone else to do for you, for yourself.

Do not think that you are undeserving of your own love. Each of us is equally entitled to feeling loved and cared for in this world and the best place to find it is within your own mind and heart. It is easier said than done, I know, but with awareness and practice you can get there. Just look for the good inside yourself and treat yourself as you would anyone else you love. That is all it takes.

Self-compassion is so important. All other acts of true compassion come after one has learned compassion for one’s self. You cannot truly love others without first loving yourself. Any love without self-love is a selfish one, even if only on a subconscious level. In order to truly make this world a better place we have to start by treating ourselves better, then extending that feeling outward and onto others.

“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”

— Christopher Germer

It is the easiest thing in the world to just love and be kind. All you have to do is forget what you think you know about who deserves compassion and who doesn’t. Forget everything you we taught about how other who are not like you should be treated. Start over and look at every human being as someone who is in need of, and deserving of, love.

Do that and I am telling you, your heart will grow and fill with an intense need to relieve the ills of the world too. Imagine if everyone instantly felt that way. Imagine how wonderful life on this planet could be.

Now go back and imagine that it all started with you.

This post was done in participation with the #1000speak for Compassion event. The aim is to get at least 1000 bloggers from all over the world to come together to talk about compassion, all one one day, February 20, 2015.