Be Kind to Others — and Yourself

I came across a quote today:  “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  Plato

This is something I try to keep in mind everyday, with mixed results.  Driving is the most obvious situation that brings out the beast in us.  Perhaps it’s because we can swear with impunity (unless it’s in front of the kids, and then they’ll remind you of your slip forever).  When other motorists do blatantly stupid, or unsafe, or merely inconvenient things I try not to mutter imprecations.  I remind myself that I’ve been behind the wheel when stressed or ill and have done bone-headed things on occasion.

What harm does it do?  Some suggest expressing annoyance in the privacy of our cars is a victimless act.  It doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, after all.

But it does hurt us.  It expresses and reinforces a mental tone of impatience that subtly affects how we interact with others, and our tolerance for our own mistakes.

I don’t expect to ever become as forgiving as Ghandi.  I do think a fair number of my fellow humans have failed to learn courteous behavior, or how to do their jobs properly.  But when I’m annoyed, I’m trying to remember that I don’t know what’s going on in most people’s lives.  I don’t know if their house is in foreclosure, or their mother or child is sick, or if they just got a divorce.

And I’m trying to be kinder to myself, too.   Several years ago I trained myself out of using negative self-talk (mostly).  You know what I mean:  thinking or saying something like, “You moron,”  when you make a mistake.  I realized I would never tolerate someone else saying that to me, and I would never say it to someone else, so I started saying, “Don’t talk to me that way,” whenever I did.  It worked.  I don’t say things like that to myself anymore.

My current project in self-kindness is to not limit myself.  I’m going to root out the lies I sometimes tell myself.  I’ll no longer say things like, “You’ve never succeeded at X before (not true), you won’t this time, e ither,” (also not true).  I’m not going to beat myself up when I make errors, I’ll just fix them if I can.

How can you be kind today?

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