It has been a week. Wednesday evening, I left work and headed to a local indie bookstore where I sat in a tiny kids’ chair surrounded by hopeful stories, and made a plan.
I made a plan because the acquittal of a politician who has admitted to initiating unwanted sexual contact on women, and who was impeached for engaging a foreign country to help him win an election in this country, made me wonder where we are headed as a people … a species. That a majority of people sworn to serve selflessly on behalf of all other Americans, had chosen to act in their own self-interest rather than the truth.
And it felt all too familiar.
How to respond?
Look away and pretend to not see?
Kick the trash can?
Go do this thing and pay for this thing or protest this thing?
After following my thoughts – those ideas of response – I could only think of one thing that would not further fester anger and that could be called upon at any time … however imperfectly.
It sounds so wimpy and weak at first, but kindness takes courage and persistence and commitment to a long-term goal of something better.
Yes. Be angry. Yes. Be sad outraged weary and tired. And be kind.
Set boundaries. Do the hard work of dealing with your own sh*t.
And be kind.
Be kind to you. Be kind to the bullies. To the lady who is unwashed and uncomfortable at the counter. To the dad with kids and bread and patience spilling from his arms at the check out. To the person who can make you feel less than. To the yahoo tossing cigarette butts and trash out of their car or yelling at a little one.
Be firm with the truth – unshakable with the truth – and be kind.
Be bold. Be ambitious. Be quiet. Be loud. Be funny. Laugh so that milkshake blows out of your nose. Be responsible. Be true. Be refreshed. Be resilient.
And be kind.
Wiser people then me have talked about the weakness inherent in bullies. The fear of the manipulative ones. The worry of the controlling. The despair of the hateful. The bluster of the grieving and lonely.
Brilliant ones have spoken of the healing of kindness. An emancipation that kindness brings. How choosing to lead with love loosens the burden that hate mires into us, our families, neighborhoods, schools, communities, organizations, nations and religions.
Hate burns through us and ignites an insatiable fire, a destructive black hole of power escalating short-game wins and long-game losses.
Frankly, I shudder and still clench my weak fists when I hear the news and the braggadocio in the public square from every corner. I wince as I hear it privately. I weep knowing I am capable of such vile destroying hate.
And yet I know that my first place to stand – my first step of response to personal, local, national, global cruelty and dishonor is to be kind.
Be kind. Look for ways to be kind.
Listen to people.
Share what I can. Give what I can.
Take care of me, too.
And though kindness will not alter policy or bring people together around a table as a rule, there is always a chance that kindness — sincere-led-by-love action — will escalate … go viral, build one connection, one hope and spill into the next.
We’ve had our time of anger and hate and spew.
We can try something new. To be kind. To remember that we are dealing with people – even narcissist are people – people who were not born as hateful or bullying or cruel. They learned it. And maybe we can learn something new. Hopeful. Life-building.
Maybe I have read too many books, listened to too many TED Talks and hoped for too many miraculous things, but don’t call me foolish on this one.
Think about what kindness has done in your life. When has cruelty been met with kindness and something shifted? What happens when cruelty is met with like or hate and curses are volleyed back and forth across the many aisles and fortresses in which we live and raise our children and – for some of us – ourselves.
There is immense strength in kindness and firm boundaries. I learned this when I listened to and attempted to live out the Parenting with Love and Logic approach. I wore out cassette tapes trying to relearn what I had lived into something worth passing on to these people – children entrusted to my temporary care. Parenting with Love and Logic was a tipping point for me as a mum and as a human.
Choices and kindness and clear boundaries.
I’m still working on it.
So instead of raging against the dying of the light of truth and integrity, I will dust off my memories of when kindness made a difference. Imperfect kindness in my offering. And begin again to be kind. And again.
I am not a foolish woman nor a simpleton. Empirically, I know that kindness is more powerful than cruel hate and the despair it brings. I know, because I am still alive.