Monday, August 05, 2013

Conscious kindness.

I've been doing a lot of thinking today about what it means to be kind. It's especially difficult to do when you are upset or in an otherwise unpleasant mental space. I have been struggling today with a decision on how to handle a situation that brought up a lot of unpleasant feelings. As I examined the feelings, I found myself making a determined effort to let go of them and treating them like physical sensations.

It was a bit frustrating at first. A part of me wanted to throw in the proverbial towel and just let myself be all angry and hurt. I then asked myself, was that the kind thing to do? It was less a matter of being kind to some other person and more one of being kind to myself. When it was all said and done, I came to the conclusion that wallowing in anger and angst was a cruel thing to do to myself.

So, I returned to observing the sensation of anger and angst. Somewhere in the midst of this, the hold of those feelings waned. It was no longer nigh on all consuming. I then moved from observing the sensation to getting to the root of it. I named what I was feeling and then identified the cause. Once I established what the cause of the feeling was, I carefully considered what each possible way to address the cause that came to mind.

My recurrent question as I looked at the costs and benefits of each action that was 'is it just?' and then it was 'is it kind?' It took me a while to sift through the emotional response that each considered action brought to the fore. I found myself rehearsing arguments with people, regardless if those arguments were even going to happen. I found myself considering what would be sufficient to make the people who had upset me regret doing so. I found myself considering petty retorts that while temporarily satisfying would have only proven to exacerbate the problem.

The thing that I surprised myself with, however, was that even as I explored the actions that I didn't believe to be fitting (because I decided that any possible solution that came to mind had to be carefully examined before being discarded), I wasn't judgmental towards myself for thinking of them. I disengaged from criticism by way of looking at what the emotions at play behind the response that I considered were.

It took me a significant portion of my afternoon to get down to the roots of all the feelings involved. I carefully examined each possible solution that would address the primary problems. When I finished examining them all, I put each one through my two bellwether questions (mentioned earlier). Once I found the solution that met both requirements, I decided that I was finished with my exploration. The conscious exploration of what was both a just and a kind solution just served to further cement in my mind that I choose to be a kind person.

Kindness is mistaken by some people for weakness. In my relentless pursuit of the best solution to the problem that evoked the negative response from me, I realized that it takes great strength to remain kind when the situation evokes a passionate desire to be seeking retribution, even under the guise of being just. It's less a matter of wrestling with something external at that point and struggling against yourself. I think that kindness won this round because I consciously chose to remain kind despite what other options there were.

The temporary satisfaction that might have come from cutting retorts just wouldn't outweigh the long term complications that would have come from it. It also would have been something that I would have regretted. So, I chose kindness.

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