This article first appeared in 2018. With all the horror that is going on in the world today, I thought it was appropriate to share.
Beyond anything else I want you to know two things:
1. Your Message Matters.
It matters to the world and it deeply matters to me.
2. I Love You.
I choose to only surround myself with kind, caring, most-of-the-time non-jerk people (Hey! We’re ALL jerks from time-to-time!) If you’re reading this, then YOU are a kind, caring, unlikely-to-be-a-jerk person. And I love you.
Let’s talk about kindness…
I’ve been thinking about kindness a lot lately. What it is and what it isn’t and why there isn’t more of it in our lives.
I’ve also been thinking about the Complaint Weasel. And why it is so easy to unleash him on the world.
I’ve come to the conclusion that kindness is a one-way street. It’s a street you travel, willingly and on purpose, but it’s not something you can expect from others.
Hear me out on this one …
When I worked in the tax office, by the time mid- to late-March rolled around, I was a basket case. Completely stressed to the max, surviving on caffeine and adrenaline. The work itself was stressful (hello, IRS!) and the office was busy. I dealt with nearly all of our 700 clients in either checking them in, checking them out, or preparing the taxes. I had contact with nearly every.single.client (and their spouses) at least once.
And every single client thought that THEIR taxes were the most important. And they were – to them.
Nobody seemed to realize that I was dealing with 700 returns (and about 1,000 PEOPLE!).
Do you see what I said there … dealing with.
I was rushed, hurried, harried, and often brisk.
The truth – I was stressed and emotional.
Imagine giving good people bad news – the refund wasn’t as big as they expected, they owed, your spouse or child or parent died – I’m sorry – I need the date of death and a death certificate please.
By mid-March, all I wanted was for somebody to SEE me. To see the person behind the stress. The person who really did care about them AND their taxes but just couldn’t find any more emotional bandwidth or strength to convey that. All I wanted was … kindness.
Don’t get me wrong! The clients weren’t horrible by any means. (Okay, with that many there are always a few meanies. But they’re the exception, not the rule!) It is that every one of them was stressed in their own right – about taxes and about who-knows-what else. And all that bled off onto me.
And I wanted kindness.
Now, let’s talk about the Complaint Weasel.
That’s the wiggly little creature that pops up when you’re on the phone with your bestie – venting, fussing, and yes, complaining.
It’s the endless parade of negativity, complaint, whining, nagging, and fussing that gets aired over and over and over and over. It’s the voice to the stress, the worry, and the fears.
And it’s like a CD on repeat – endlessly playing.
I realized that I was feeding my own Complaint Weasel too much. I was calling one of my besties, Martha, every.single.day. to complain about how stressed I am. Client deadlines. Client needs. Money woes and worries. Kiddo who won’t sleep. Kiddo who naps at the wrong moment. Husband who didn’t anticipate my every whim. My mom was too busy to come help me. Dog ate a stick on my carpet. People who drive too fast when we’re out for a walk. The wind. Clients not understanding me. Me not understanding them! Mean text messages. Fears. More stress.
On. And on. And on.
And then it hit me – all I’d been doing was calling her to complain. Barely asking about HER life and then digging into all my woes.
Not just letting the Complaint Weasel out for a romp but laying out treats and feeding him a gourmet meal!
I called and apologized. LISTENED more than I talked. We worked on her new business – for hours.
So where’s the intersection between kindness and the Complaint Weasel?
I think we’re all tired of the Complaint Weasel. Our own and everybody else’s. I think, deep down, we are tired of the bashing, the anger, and the meanness. We’ve got hair triggers – and we expect to be able to use them and have other people give us a pardon on it.
What if we were kind?
What if we recognized and remembered that we’re all facing crap?
That “terse” email or text message?
You can’t really understand the tone and caps for EMPHASIS might not be as emphatic as you’re thinking.
When you’re called out for something, it’s not as CALLED OUT as you might think. (Seriously, how much emphasis are you putting on that? Why?)
That buzz word of “triggered” that floats around. That’s another way of saying that it got your back up and there’s a wound there that you need to deal with. And when my triggered impacts your triggered – watch out!
What if we were kind?
My Grandma Alice used to say, “Kim, you just don’t know what somebody is going through. But you KNOW that they’re going through SOMETHING.”
And we all are, right?
And it’s none of your business what that something is. Just like it’s none of mine.
But what if instead of jumping – we paused?
What if firing back, we breathed?
What if being mean, we were kind?
So we’re clear – kind and nice aren’t the same.
Kind is seeing into the other person’s hurt – without needing to know what it is – and coming from a place of love and compassion.
Nice is not rocking the boat.
Case in point:
A person in my life who crosses the client-mentor-friend line (wow, it gets complicated fast!) was “mean” in some project-related texts. I could guess she was going through some stuff – her life is BIG right now.
And I couldn’t let it go. I was certain she was mean. And I was certain she thought that I’d made a mistake on purpose.
I lost sleep. I finally emailed. (I couldn’t call – I’d have lost it, although I’m not sure if the tears would have been anger or hurt.)
And she reminded me that we all have crap we’re dealing with. Don’t take it personally.
I get that lesson. I do.
I knew that was how I should have dealt with it. And it was how I tried. But I was still hurt. Childish and selfish. I was HURT. I had to reach out to tell her that – because I couldn’t let it go on my own. There was just too much going on in my life, things she didn’t know and didn’t need to know, for her rough edge not to rub my rough edge raw.
(We’re fine now, btw. Talked it out and resolved.)
‘NICE’ would have been one or both of us saying “It’s okay, no big deal” and inside knowing it WAS a big deal and needed to be dealt with but choosing not to.
And I want to be kind.
In talking with a different friend, it dawned on me that I can be kind but there’s no guarantee of that grace from others.
And my friend, in her infinite, gentle wisdom, said, “You’re right. You can’t expect it. But everyone deserves it.”
I’ve been thinking about that ever since.
The easy way we can trot out our Complaint Weasel and air our grievances everywhere – in texts, on calls, on social media, to our tribe, on our platforms.
The Universal Truth that everybody is going through something – right now – and it’s hard and filled with hurt and fear.
And the matching truth that you CAN’T expect kindness from others.
You can’t expect compassion or empathy.
What if we put the Complaint Weasel back in his cage? (I’m not saying get rid of him! He’s needed – but not every waking moment!)
What if we chose kindness?
What if we traveled that one-way street, and just tootled along? Giving out kindness to people who don’t expect it but do deserve it? It’s not a quid pro quo. It’s not even karma.
Kindness. For the sake of all the souls on the planet right now.
I’m choosing kindness. I’m choosing to be kind.
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