In short? Don’t be a dick.
Drops mic, walks away.
For real though, this might just be the secret to being a good human in four little words, and if we whittle it down to two, it’s even simpler:
Kindness is so often underrated, undervalued. We carry old wounds and hurt feelings with us. We have bad days, no time, and a to do list as long as – well, let’s just say it’s VERY long. We have fears there won’t be enough, that we won’t get what we want, what we feel we deserve. We want to come out on top, we want to win, we want to hurt the people who hurt us, and instead of having the courage and chutzpah to say “dude. What you did sucked, and I’m hella hurt by it and don’t know how to deal,” we act like assholes.
Can you imagine a world in which we were free of all that baggage, all that drama? A world in which people walked around, waited in lines, drove on roads, communicated with their peers / exes / colleagues / store clerks, ate in restaurants, raised their children, spoke on the phone, drafted emails, went to meetings, enjoyed vacations, shopped in stores, and used only kind words? Imagine how peaceful this would be, how calming it would feel?
Well guess what folks, this is not some utopian ideal; the notion of a world in which humans treat all other as humans with kindness and respect is absolutely, unequivocally, 100% within our reach.
Why? Because it can start with you, right here, right now.
How? One of life’s greatest secrets is that while you cannot always control what is happening around you, you can always control how you react.
I want that to reaalllllyyyy sink into you, so I’m going to write it again: While you cannot always control what is happening around you, you can always control how you react.
So let’s say you’re dealing with a person or situation who, in your mind, causes you pain, challenge, or difficulty. The trigger happy response might be to go low. Cut. Posture. Puff out your chest. Purse your lips, squint your eyes, make that stupid half scoff huffing noise in feigned disdain, and give it all the rage you’ve got, because you know that feels good when you win.
For about three minutes.
Until you realize that to stay in that adrenaline rich, temper high, blood pumping f*** you f*** you f*** you state, requires a shit ton of work and energy. It does. It requires active work on your part to stay angry and show up in a – for lack of a better word – mean way.
Further, when you act like an ass, you had better believe that 99 times out of 100, you are inciting the person or situation you’re dealing with to respond similarly. And before you know it, you’re each fighting fire with fire, till the whole damn forest is burned to a crisp and no one can even see a twig, let alone a tree through all the verbal bile you’ve been spewing.
Conversely, if you are consistently conscious of showing up with every person, in every situation, and approaching it from a kind place, you’re instantly bettering the interaction. In stark contrast to harsh words being exchanged back and forth, using kindness will almost instantly diffuse the situation. When you can control your own emotions and keep yourself calm, you are unwittingly showing others how to do the same, how to feel empathy, how to love by example; all lessons they maybe didn’t learn when they were a child, and are learning now.
I get it: we all have our crosses to bear, in varying shapes, sizes, and levels of intensity. And still, that never warrants or makes it ok to treat someone else like crap. When you show up with kindness – which costs you nothing and is far better for your own health and sanity – you are showing the people around you how to also show up with kindness. If an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, then think of what the opposite could do: simply by being kind, you can change the world one tiny act at a time:
Hold the door. Let someone go ahead of you. Don’t send the text your brain and thumbs are itching to send. Share. Take less than you need to. Tip more than you need to. Smile at someone random on the street. Give compliments. Take a breath before engaging with the person who you cannot get out from under your skin. Give your kids an extra hug – especially after they make a mistake. Find out what is actually bothering your partner. Offer your seat to a stranger. Quit complaining about the weather. Take a friend for lunch. Husk corn for an old lady at the grocery store. Give something of value to someone who will value it instead of putting it on Kjiji. Practice patience. Let go of the need to be right all the time. Give someone a second chance. Listen when people are talking to you. Donate. Pre pay the coffee for the person behind you. Help someone without being asked. Pay it forward over and over and over.
Use your manners. Make eye contact. Apologize. Learn to forgive. Check your ego at the door.
Do no harm, but take no shit. Be kind to yourself and to others. Do good and good will come to you. Believe deeply and absolutely that most of the time, most of the people are doing their best, and have patience with the learning process they’re moving through.
And don’t be a dick.