Kindness Challenge|Week 5: Choosing Kindness

Kindness_ContagiousREV

Week #5 of the Kindness Challenge was “choosing kindness” and what better contagion is there?

If only positivity could spread as quickly as negative things like gossip and poison ivy!

We see this every day on the Internet when the haters troll others with their venom. While we don’t have to agree on everything, mutual respect should be the standard. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and the level of nastiness appears to be growing.

Kindness is a great antidote to all of the hostility in the world today, so choosing kindness is a way of rejecting the anger and offering goodwill instead.


One of the options Niki proposed was to choose someone you normally have difficulty showing kindness to and do it anyway.

An opportunity happened to avail itself with someone who I maintain a healthy distance from. This person is my ex-husband. 

We were married for 23 years following a nine-year courtship. Thirty-two years is a long time to spend with someone. We had three wonderful children together, but I’m still sad that he never tried to conquer the addiction that destroyed our family and his life.

He recently spent two and a half weeks in the hospital as his health is declining. Along with his sisters and our son, I pitched in to take care of things that needed to be done during his hospital stay.

I was sorry to see the condition of my former home. I always worked hard to keep it clean and organized, but it’s no longer that way. Just as he has neglected his health the house is also in disrepair.

I spent two days cleaning up and an additional afternoon helping my son cut and rake the yard. 

I did this for several reasons:

  1. For me – Because so much of the situation was and is out of my control, I wanted to do something positive that was within my control. 
  2. For him – I wanted to show my ex that even though he apparently doesn’t think much of himself, his family still cares.
  3. For my children – I believe that as a parent we lead by example. I want them to show caring and empathy to others, even when it’s difficult. 

RD_Kindness-Quote

Credit: Readers Digest

It’s easy to be nice to people who treat you well. But, what about those folks who don’t?

It might be a rude customer or that guy who cut you off in traffic. 

It could be a family member or friend who would rather judge you than actively listen and consider your feelings along with theirs.

Relationships are a 50/50 proposition with half of the responsibility falling to ourselves. I tried to convince my husband that he needed help and that I would support those efforts. 

Since I couldn’t control his drinking, I believed that this was my 50 percent. However, I was weak and enabled his habit. Perhaps if I had been stronger and taken drastic measures early on it might have made a difference. I guess I’ll never know.

The following quote rings true in my mind: 

Those who deserve love the least need it the most. Austin O'Malley

 

People who don’t like themselves have difficulty getting along with others.

In order to offer love, empathy, and understanding we must first offer it to ourselves. 

This is what I’ve learned and worked on over the past decade. 

It doesn’t mean I excuse his behavior and the terrible losses we suffered as a family. It just means that I recognize the limitations of his humanity and the fact that we all have them, myself included.

Kindness creates an opportunity for compassion and healing, for ourselves and others. Our world needs a lot more of both, so the choice is clear.


Kindness Challenge|Week 5: Choosing Kindness

Kindness Challenge | Week 1: Cultivating Self-Love

2017 Kindness Wk 1

Love, like charity, begins at home.

It’s impossible to love others if we don’t love ourselves first. This is the prompt for Week 1 of the Kindness Challenge: to cultivate self-love.

It took a long time for me to learn this important lesson. I always believed that a good person puts the needs of others first. To do otherwise was selfish. 

So, I focused on doing for others and often neglected myself. Who doesn’t love a martyr, right?

That’s not to say that we should shirk our obligations and always put ourselves first; that really would be selfish! But, we have a responsibility to take care of our own needs, as well. 

However, I didn’t understand this and wasn’t able to strike a healthy balance. Occasionally I’d become resentful of the people I sacrificed for when they didn’t seem “grateful enough.”

Eventually, I learned about codependence. This is a relationship where both parties are over dependent on each other. A codependent individual needs to be needed in order to feel okay about themselves. 

Realizing that I was engaging in this type of behavior I began the hard work to change. 


Wants vs Needs

An important first step was to learn the difference between wants and needs. We tend to use these words interchangeably when they actually refer to very different things.

Wants are the things we wish for like tickets to a concert or a new couch. They vary from person to person and change over time. These are the “extras” that make us happy but aren’t necessary to live a meaningful life.

Maslow-HierarchyREVThe excitement we feel in attaining them is somewhat short-lived. As time goes by that initial thrill wanes and they’re replaced with a yearning for the next desire.

The American psychologist Abraham Maslow devised the Hierarchy of Needs. This five level pyramid begins at the bottom with the most basic needs and moves upward toward the final level that he calls self-actualization. It is here that honesty, independence, awareness, objectivity, creativity, and originality reside. 

Maslow’s theory is that only a minority of people are able to self-actualize because it requires these more uncommon qualities.

Needs are those things we must have to live healthy, functional lives. Food, water, and shelter are the obvious physical or objective ones. They remain constant over time. Subjective needs refer to those necessary for good mental health: self-esteem, approval, and a sense of security. 

The ability to differentiate between the two is important in how we prioritize and make choices in everyday life. We’re also better equipped to recognize this ability, or a lack thereof, in other people.  


Self-love

 Self-love is the act of valuing your own happiness and well-being. When we see ourselves as worthy of kindness and compassion, we more easily view others in the same way. 

Love Yourself REVAs an important component of self-esteem, it enables us to have confidence and a positive self-image.

Without it, we feel the need to constantly “measure up” to self-imposed and societal standards. If that doesn’t happen then we feel like failures, unworthy of respect for ourselves and others. 

This challenge is based on the work of Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston. She tells us that self-love is our birthright, that we aren’t required to earn it, but we must believe in it. 

That can be a tall task in today’s world. The race to be smarter, younger-looking, healthier, richer, thinner, etc. is overwhelming. We’re barraged with products and services that can “improve” and make us more successful. 

I followed Niki’s instructions to watch for moments when I didn’t feel good about myself. There were several times throughout the past week and all for different reasons.

GrowthREVHowever, I came up with a positive, simple mantra to remind myself that we should always exercise kindness towards ourselves and others. 

“Growth is ongoing…”

Changing negative behaviors requires diligence and strength, but we must first be aware of the behavior.

Once we identify these unfavorable attitudes towards ourselves we must remember that only through growth can we change.

We always have the opportunity for self-improvement; growth is ongoing as long as we want it to be!

Cultivating self-love requires attention and practice. This will be my focus and hopefully, the moments of negativity will dissipate. The goal is to replace it with a spirit of kindness and caring, not only for myself but others as well!

Week 1 | Self-Love