Monday, April 11, 2016

Killing 'Em With Kindness

Details of a Love - "Don't let emotion impact your actions, let empathy influence your feelings."
Have you ever had one of those days where everything everybody does gets under your skin? For most of us women, that seemingly inexplicable lack of emotional self control occurs around a not-so-inexplicable time of the month. Other times, it's for no justifiable reason.

Sometimes I feel like if I have to be undeservingly kind to one more person I'll scream. And then most likely run into the bathroom and cry.

Then there are the days that I see myself so clearly inside, the negativity and I think, “how could I possibly accomplish anything good in this life? Look at me, I mess up all the time. I suck."

A few weeks ago, I was having one of those days. I was doubting myself in a very major way, feeling like I was bad at my job, bad at being a daughter, a sister, a friend, I couldn't decide what to eat for lunch, I was losing at Upwords against my mom on my phone, the bathing suit I ordered for Hawaii didn't fit the way I wanted it to... just really not liking myself at all.

Then a coworker, who I honestly thought didn’t care for me very much, said to me, “I watch the way you treat people, and I wish I could do that… be nice even when they don’t deserve it.”

It really caught me off guard because I see my inner-monologue... that part of me telling people to get out of my face, stop bugging me, "seriously, you can't figure this out on your own?"... I see my frustration, the impatience, the irritation and anger... I don't FEEL kind.   I feel mean. Really mean. And if it were socially acceptable I might even punch someone in the throat.

But, I guess that's not what other people see. And that's good.  They might think I need anger management if they saw what was really going on inside.

I think about that old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I don’t really agree with that. I think you CAN ALWAYS say something nice.

There's a trick to it, though... it's that other old saying, "Put yourself in their shoes."

If a coworker is short with me, condescending or impolite, I always assume they’re having a bad day. (Some people have way more bad days than others if you know what I mean.) I assume something has gone terribly wrong and they just can’t take it anymore. Instead of getting angry at how I’m being treated, I feel something else… compassion. Instead of wanting to make them pay, or punch them in the throat, or secretly holding an infinite grudge… I start doing something else. I’m extra nice to them. Sometimes, I might even bake them something. Or go out of my way to do something nice for them. (Like not punch them in the throat.)

Slowly, my anger at the situation dissipates and so does theirs. Almost every single time they realize how they were treating me and it either stops or they apologize. I've found that if you don't entertain the negativity, refuse to feed and fuel it, it will die. It's like that jerk of a weed in your garden that is stronger and bigger and more resilient than any other plant out there. You can rip it out all you want, but it keeps growing back... until you kill the roots. Or... don't even let it take root.

I have to stress, though, that this is a choice you have to make. The anger ignites, the offense begins boiling, and you acknowledge it. You can't face something if you can't admit it's there.

I have a little internal conversation with myself, "Okay, so you're angry, you definitely deserve to be, but they probably have something else going on, so let's try to make their day better by letting this go and being nice."

Brené Brown, a researcher and author, whose work I am an avid reader of, says in her book, I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame...
"Compassion is not a virtue - - it is a commitment. It's not something we have or don't have - - it's something we choose to practice."

There have been so many times in my life when I wish people would have been empathetic with me and to my situation. For instance, when I decided to leave my first husband and escape a physically abusive relationship… so many people that professed to be my closest friends judged me. They decided that their small minded convictions outweighed the need for truth and my desperate need of support. If ever there was a time in my life I needed empathy, it was then.  I just needed people to put themselves in my shoes… remove the spiritual and religious taboos I was up against, assume they didn’t know all the details and that just maybe, there was a good reason I was doing what I did, and extend love despite their opinion of the situation… It really disintegrated what little trust I had left in people. It took me almost a decade to be able to trust friends after that. I stopped getting close to people because I didn’t want to be judged. To be completely truthful here, it’s still something I work on.

I love The Message’s translation of Hebrews 13:2-3…
Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.

Maybe that’s why I make such an effort to extend empathy and mercy to anyone and everyone.  Because I know what it feels like when people don’t. 

The saddest part of it all is that the people that have hurt me the most are “Christians”.  They believe they know what is right and wrong and judge accordingly. 

It’s really unfortunate, because the God I love and serve has taught me to love unconditionally… not just the people that do everything right and are perfect, not just the people that have never hurt me. I love because He does.

I also believe that the mercy I am able to show people is a living example of the mercy God has on me.  

Man, have I screwed up in my life… but, God has blessed me despite all of it.  He has blessed me so hugely that there is no other explanation for it other than God genuinely wanting me to be happy in life. Because I know, I don’t deserve it. Not without his mercy.

Don't let emotion impact your actions, let empathy influence your feelings. 

Get off your high horse, come down to their level, and be nice.

In place of offering your opinion, simply say, "I get it."

People change when you show them compassion. The inner-workings of their spirit begin to unravel when a dose of genuine kindness is injected into their day. Whatever hardness is in their heart, whatever situation is ripping the happiness out of their life, the empathy you show can begin a process of undoing the negativity.

Empathy has no cost to you… you sacrifice absolutely nothing by showing compassion… but what do you gain? I challenge you to try it and see.

I've listed some of my favorite scriptures that prompt kindness, compassion and empathy.
I've put them into an easily printable, categorized sheet so you can take it with you anywhere!  I plan on doing this for all my posts so they can be bound together in a little reference book with different topics.  Let me know what you think!

Details of a Love - Scripture Printable - Killing Them With Kindness

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