5.05.2011

Courageous kindness - in work, motherhood & politics

I recently had two encounters with people who were less than kind to me in the workplace. I was yelled at for something that was beyond my control – this person did not get the results she had hoped for, and took it out on me as if I had told her something dishonest. In the second situation there was whispering and negative talk happening to undermine a correction that had already been made to rectify a mistake.

It’s hard to be yelled at. It’s hard to have mistakes dwelled upon and enlarged when reparations have already been made. It’s especially hard when I did nothing wrong or had already made it right.

Thankfully I was able to react with empathy and a bit of kindness. It took a lot of what is positive and giving in my spirit. It would have been so easy to be defensive, to fight back, to return the rudeness or to cry at being attacked. I tried to be courageous and offer kindness. I only call it courageous because it took all the calm and strength I had to react in this way while being surrounded by negativity that was beyond my control.

To me, courageous kindness means extending compassion to even those who may not have acted in a way to deserve or illicit kindness.

Courageous kindness means offering kindness regardless of someone’s behavior.

Courageous kindness means protecting myself while still offering love to others.

Courageous kindness is seeing the potential in people without being fooled by their actions – and this goes both ways. I will not be fooled by poor behavior, seeing only the action and missing the person. But I will also not be blinded by the potential in a person and let myself fall victim to repeated hurts. If they choose to not behave to their potential, I will choose to not be hurt by their actions.

Courageous kindness means seeing that unkind behavior stems from fear and insecurity. I believe it’s rare to see true malice, that not stemming from fear and insecurity. Even the most malicious behavior is often a personal protection built from a place of fear.

I can see this issue arising in motherhood. Teenage angst and rebellion will be hard to accept, absorb and deflect instead of reacting against and reflecting. I hope that I have the calm and understanding to remind myself that the rebellion is natural, and to show the Pie that my love and caring is not threatened by poor behavior. I hope to be able to hear the anger without fighting back and reacting from hurt or fear, but acting instead with love and calm. I hope to be able to teach her that she is – and people are – worth more than their behavior sometimes deserves in response.

I can be more intentionally conscious too, to offer that kind of courageous kindness to people in all facets of my life. I don’t know their story, and I don’t know the reasoning for their actions, but I can work under the assumption that most people are not malicious, just reacting from a place of hurt.

In our current political environment too, with all the celebration and rejoicing over death, I can choose to not rejoice. I can choose to allow for the possibility- although I don’t know if it’s actually there – that there could be good in each person, even those acting with cruelty, evil.

And although I am not a religious person, I believe that there is something bigger than myself. I think that some spirit of good is in all people, even if hidden. Some people call this God, and it may be. I once read something that I wrote down and carry with me – and it can be easily stated as God or Good:

“That which is God in me greets that which is God in you”

“That which is good in me greets that which is good in you”

I can choose to give to the world the good in myself and I can choose to see the good in others, even then they are keeping it hidden.

2 comments:

  1. Oh, Megan.

    I'm sorry you got yelled at. :( I used to get yelled at a lot as a flight attendant, things like, "YOU lost my luggage!" or "YOU gave my seat away!" I would look them in the eye, say I'm sorry that happened to you, and then I would say, "I was not the one personally who did these things, I just met you and I am trying to help you and fix the situation." It did not necessarily diffuse it, but it made me feel better!

    I think a big problem with society is that people want a scapegoat. I do not yell at people (oops, do my own kids count?!). I try to be compassionate and think that something else might be going on with them and I could be the straw that broke the camel's back.

    My mom likes to say, "No one gets up in the morning thinking they are going to try to do their WORST today," and she is right.

    But is it certainly a challenge to not get swept up in the moment.

    MOV

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  2. yes, it sucks to be yelled at. i always try to treat flight attendants and waitresses really well because i know they don't normally get treated well! i think people get so wrapped up in their own anger or disappointment and they want to blame someone else instead of being understanding.

    i think your mom was right about that - we don't intend to do our worst, but doing our best can be a lot of work. A LOT. which is why i called it courageous. deflecting is definitely the first part of courageous kindness, because - especially if it isn't your fault - you have to be able to start the conversation with "I didn't mess this up, but I am going to make it right". I don't believe in taking blame that isn't yours, but I also don't believe in pointing fingers (even if I know who made the error). I'll just do my best to make it right.

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