If there is one thing I can tell you about managing your life so that you can love it, it’s this: no matter how blessed you feel most of the time, there will always be stresses and challenges. The way you manage those challenges will define the reactions you choose. I understand that advice is never one-size-fits all, yet I am absolutely certain that this nugget is universal: choose kindness.
I know it sounds trite or rote, but choosing to be kind in the face of any adversity will help you in whatever your current crisis might be, and that kindness will also assist you in managing your future responses. respond in the future as well.
Deep down, your soul knows that to choose kindness is to soothe yourself, and others.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
When you’re stressed, there’s so much adrenaline in your system that you can’t help but feel agitated and frustrated. Yes, it often seems easier to be snappy in your speech, or succumb to impatience. I don’t know about you, but, I always feel bad if I take my own stress out on someone else, and it’s taken years for me to manage that snap-urge to just lash out.
I’m not perfect; I am still human and it happens more often than I’d like that I may not act with the utmost kindness.
“Hurting people hurt others,” is a saying one of my wise clients shared with me, recently, and it’s completely true. Grief, sadness, and pain so often block our ability to step outside ourselves. Again, we’re all human, just doing the best we can to get from this moment to the next. We are bound to bobble at times.
You might assume I’m talking about extending kindness to loved ones and strangers alike. And, of course I am. But, I’m going to let you in on a secret that the average martyr (or even each ordinary human trying to traverse this world) often forgets:
Choosing kindness includes being kind to YOURSELF as well.
Yes, you might remember to smile at that TSA agent when you are worried about that the reason behind the trip you’re about to take. And you may remember to joke and speak softly to the cashier at the grocery store or make pleasant small talk with the waitress who brings you a comforting meal. All of those are excellent ways to push kindness outward.
Oh, but the dialogue of self-talk! The push to do, do, do and go, go, go as you manage those challenges that are thrown into our path – and the way we criticize ourselves on not managing upsets better – those are the internal struggles we all deal with on a daily basis, right?
I am in the midst of one of those storms as I write this to you, this morning.
My father passed away earlier this week and it’s so easy to, in my grief, not be as aware of others and how I interact with them. I did smile at the TSA agent as I went through security and he thanked me for it, a reminder that my daddy sure would have appreciated me being polite.
While you might wonder how I am able to write this while the grief is just so fresh, I go back to the selfless ways of my father and the importance he put on being a hard worker.
In one of the last conversations we had, when I told him I was there, he said, “You didn’t need to come all this way”. Then he shook his finger at me and said, “You should be working!” To which, of course, I couldn’t help but chuckle and be grateful that even in his obvious pain, he wanted me to tend to what was “important” – and to him, that meant work.
It may seem like I’ve digressed from the topic at hand here: kindness, but my father was one of the kindest men I’ve ever known.
In the extension of kindness to others despite how I am feeling, I’ve done my best to remember to be kind to myself, too. I purchased a $14 coffee pot at Target along with a package of the coffee I normally drink, so that I can have coffee in the quiet of my hotel room when I wake up. And you know what else? I bought a couple of mugs, too. Sturdy burgundy pieces of pottery that feel good and warm when I cradle a cup full of coffee in my hand. Small, picky things, that coffee pot and a couple of mugs. Things that I will likely leave behind in my hotel room and trust they make their way to someone who will appreciate them later.
But I can tell you, that the morning after my father’s death, to be able to sit on the sofa in my room and have a little prayer time with a mug of perfect coffee in my hand felt like more than just a small act of kindness to myself.
Life will never be completely-free of pain or stress. The human condition demands that we can’t get from here to there completely unscathed. But it sure does make the journey much gentler to the heart and soul when you keep kindness in the mix.