Have I mentioned how the new Cinderella movie may be my favourite movie? I just watched it for a second time on a flight and love how it inspires me to “have courage and be kind.” Another little phrase I add for myself (and I’m not sure where I picked it up) is “give first.”
For some people this advice seems to be effortlessly easy to follow. Though of course, that’s only my perspective of it. These people who gave of themselves without asking anything in return, these patient people who would never take things personally and always forgive you for being an imperfect human.
I wonder about the psychology of it. Does it come from being a very secure person? Someone who knows their needs will be met, and in turn can help others get theirs met?
I feel like perhaps it’s something I struggle with because as one of four children, we always had to compete for attention and make sure someone took care of our needs. We had to be a little louder to express our individuality. I’ve had a tendency to be more self-focused in times when I’m stressed, have little money in the bank, and little attention to spare because it’s all wrapped up in trying to figure out life. But those things should be no excuse for not being present and aware of other people’s needs.
It can be fairly easy with strangers, even if they’re rude or obnoxious, to remind yourself that it’s not about you and to be kind to them anyway.
But it gets harder with people closer to you, for some reason. It’s harder not to take it personally when they are expressing their insecurities. I have a tendency to want to put them in their place! My ego pops up and I want to say, “I think you have a problem that needs to be addressed!” But every time I do that, it only puts them more on the defensive. You’d think I’d learn. It can also be hard because they know you as who you have been in the past. You have a certain relationship with them, a certain way of interacting that can be hard to step out of. You both play a role, and a change in your perception completely changes the relationship between the characters in this play. Sometimes it’s for the better, though! Most of the time, I hope.
It’s quite an exercise, to try and always be aware of the needs of those around you. To stop being focused on your own inner world all the time and see how you can reach out to others. Of course we need to care for ourselves, we can’t just quit work to go help all the old ladies cross the street all day (or you could). If you have dreams and goals, you don’t have to put them aside. It’s just being aware of what you can do, when opportunity presents itself.
But if we’re not careful about our motives, we can get stuck in a rut of “I do everything for everyone else, but nobody cares about me.” I mean that’s one way of looking at the situation (and I’ve looked at it that way before). But I think in some situations this ties together being kind to others, and also taking care of our own needs. For instance, you could think you’re always being kind to a person who takes it for granted, and let it fester inside you until you blow up at them, even though all they did was accept what you offered as though there were no strings attached. If you’re a couple, for example, you could get annoyed that your partner always leaves their towel on the floor or something. Maybe you’ve pointed it out in a teasing way, but not in a way that is a direct request. So if one day you go strangling them with a towel, they don’t know what your problem is. Or perhaps you find yourself seemingly doing most of the dishes. You may just do it because it needs done, doesn’t take much time, and not everything in life is split 50/50 unless that’s what you actually agree upon at some point. But if you let it start to bother you and think it’s not fair, then you’re just making a victim out of yourself by not speaking aloud an agreement with your co-dish-washer. And it’s another story all together if one of you has a hard time sticking to an agreement, but then again you both should be kind and also take care of yourselves, perhaps swapping one chore for another.
Or you could be the kind of person who keeps a running list of how you’ve been kind to others in your life, and have come to a point where you don’t make it pleasant for someone to accept a favour from you. Or you create a great long speech about all you do and how you can’t take on any more, instead of simply saying “it would be really hard for me to do that right now, I’m sorry.” You may martyr yourself, doing things for others but making them fully aware of how put out you are by it. Nobody needs the story of your life when asking a favour, they just need a yes or no.
But my point is that we need to watch ourselves and make sure that we are kind to others because we genuinely want to be – we want them to smile, to have an easier time – not because we want recognition. We all should be kind. It’s not that we’re going above and beyond when we’re being kind. We are all falling short of the mark, which is to be constantly aware of how we can be of service, and also to forgive others when we feel they have been unkind or have failed to be kind to us.
I feel like much of my life, somehow, has been about making sure my needs get met, making sure that, when hordes of background actors run for the pizza, there’s a piece for me too. But I’ve been in transition, becoming the person who gives the best piece of… whatever we’re eating…. to the other person. The person who can enjoy something even if it’s not quite what she was expecting. The person who observes rather than gets angry, and tries only ever to have a kind word to say. The person who doesn’t keep score, and who volunteers herself with grace and without resentment, never being a victim. Because when you’re kind for the sake of being kind, for the sake of loving everyone as people who need to be loved, you always win.
Have courage, and be kind.