When You Don’t Feel Like It
I’m trying to concentrate on Kindness this year.
Practicing Kindness is pretty easy when you are being appreciative to those you love or considerate to benign strangers. Holding the door for someone with an armload of packages or buying a treat for your spouse is a piece of cake… (literally, if that is the treat you are buying).
But practicing Kindness when you don’t feel like it takes a little more effort.
But often, it is only a little more effort. Really.
Look at it this way: Say you have a bad cold. You are lying on the sofa, binge-watching “Say Yes To The Dress” and feeling really miserable. But you have cold medicine in the bathroom. Sure, you feel awful. You don’t want to get up to fetch the cold pills.You want to stay on the sofa. And you don’t want to miss this bride who will surely buy the see-through, low-cut, tight-in-the-ass, over-budget wedding gown for her religious ceremony. But you wait for a commercial, and groan your way to the bathroom and take the pills. Oh, it was a huge effort. You almost collapsed halfway to the bathroom. But twenty minutes later, that tantrum-throwing bride has bought the stupid gown, and you are feeling a little better. It was worth it.
So about Kindness when you don’t feel like it: Get off the couch.
Here are a few uncomfortable kindnesses I have practiced that you might want to consider. I am not listing these as a self-congratulatory pat on the back. I’m bringing them up in order to demonstrate with concrete examples that it really isn’t that hard. Because I am as lazy, petty, and self-absorbed as anyone I know (maybe with one powerful exception) – and I can do it. If I can, so can you.
*1 Say hello to people you’d really rather ignore. Most of us have reason to visit a nursing home once in a while. And in the corridor are lots of old, sick people in their wheelchairs, mostly staring at their hands and waiting for nothing. They are difficult to look at sometimes. It’s much easier to walk faster, and get to where you are going. Don’t do that. Slow down. Say hello to some of these people.Stop at just a couple of wheelchairs. Smile. Look at some faces. You may be the only visitor they have that day.
*2 Give some attention to the kids you dislike. We all have them. Not our own kids of course, but the children of our relatives and friends. It’s not a crime to say that there are children we just don’t care for. Some kids are bratty or whiny or shrill or just not your cup of tea. It’s easy to focus on the kids who are cute and funny and charm the pants right off of you every time. But once in a while, try to talk to one of the whiny kids. Listen to them. Hug them. Problem children are still children. They can use a little attention.
*3 Compliment someone you aren’t friends with. I wrote earlier that I was petty. That could be a slight understatement. When I don’t especially like someone, I tend to see only the negative about them. I have a mean-spirited (but human) propensity to resent their successes and revel in their failures. But sometimes your enemies wear nice clothes, or have good ideas, or even get promoted. It’s horrible but it happens. Think about congratulating a rival the same way you’d congratulate a friend.
*4 Keep a gift you don’t like. I’m not talking about something expensive. If someone gives you a very valuable gift you dislike, you should certainly be honest and not allow that person to have wasted his money. But for inexpensive, insignificant presents? Don’t return everything that is not your taste. And I don’t mean that you should say “Thank you” and put it in a drawer. Would it be so hard to use something that wouldn’t be your first choice? The mugs from Aunt Mary with frogs playing hopscotch? You could actually drink coffee out of them once in a while and think, “These are from Aunt Mary, who taught me how to crochet.” And I know I have always said that you should only buy what you love. And I meant it. But a present that you didn’t choose yourself? Like the blouse your husband bought you with the weird print. Wear it out to dinner once in a while. It won’t kill you.
*5 And for crying out loud, these days, stop crying out loud. You do not have to argue with everyone whose opinions you don’t share. I am not saying that you shouldn’t stand up for yourself. Of course you should. But pick your battles. Last week I was viciously attacked on Twitter. You could even say that I was threatened. I certainly felt threatened. I disagreed with a total stranger. A third party stepped in and threatened me. I can fight for what I believe, but arguments with people I don’t know and will never convince are a waste of energy. I am not saying that it was my fault that I was threatened. It was the fault of that nasty person. But I had nothing to gain and I argued anyway. I should have let it pass. And even more, I should – once in a while – listen. And you too. Every now and then, listen to someone you disagree with. Listen. And then say, “I understand why you feel that way.” Do not add a “…but” to that sentence.
“I understand why you feel that way.”