“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” – Saint Basil
I have had many conversations in my head with others, things I want to say to “set the record straight,” to “put them in their place,” to “lay it on the line.” Fortunately, I’ve kept most of those where they belong – unsaid. When they’ve escaped and actually came out, regret usually followed. At times, it is appropriate to not be a doormat as well and to speak our own voice.
Our choice is between reacting “in kind” – returning what’s given to us, especially the negativity and criticism or responding “in kindness” – by not returning the same so we don’t turn into that which we want to avoid. Complaint, negativity and criticism are rampant and only create a downward spiral. Gratitude, optimism and hope offer an alternative and multiplies rather than substracts, a whirlwind upward, a deep well to draw from.
So little of what people serve us in negativity, complaint and consternation has anything to do with us. When we take it personally, we allow them to steal our joy. That person who cut you off, the coworker who has a bad attitude and shares it every time you interact with her/him so you do everything to avoid her/him, the family member or friend who triggers that 10 year old in you are all carrying their own burdens and struggles. When we understand this, we have arrived at empathy and understanding and can move out from that place rather than the “what about me?” hole.
Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements are simple rules and principles to follow that can help us respond “in kindness” rather than “in kind,” freeing us from the power and winds of external forces that we allow to permeate our internal state of joy and peace:
- Be Impeccable With Your Word.
- Don’t Take Anything Personally.
- Don’t Make Assumptions.
- Always Do Your Best.
As Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We can choose to respond with empathy, understanding, positivity and optimism to combat negativity and model a different path that creates contentment and joy, which is in short supply right now.
Choose mindfully and with forethought the energy that you put out into the world. You can be that thread of hope, that beam of light, that source of joy that someone desperately needs from you now.
“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” – Stephen Grellet