Kindness. So essential to our flourishing as living beings. Like a first sip of wine moving through your body, bringing with it warmth and a soothing invitation to relaxation. A long, slow, beautiful exhalation. A glow. Comfort, camaraderie, and safety; the spark and reassurance of a healing soul connection. Kindness is both simple and profound.
And yet… (here I cringe… I squirm… I imagine the Dalai Lama shaking his head, “Noooo, Robin…”)… And yet… Well yes it is all it’s cracked up to be… But. Let’s just say that while yes, kindness is crucial, kindness is key, and kindness wins the day one hundred percent of the time, being kind does not mean that you have to take shit, either.
I don’t think His Holiness would shake his head at that. He might smile at me with his mirthful eyes and encourage me to explain. Thank you. (And happy upcoming birthday, by the way.) I think I have been too nice. I have taken the Dalai Lama’s beautiful words, “Be kind whenever possible,” (…wait for it…) “It is always possible,” to mean be nice. Play nice. Just let that go; don’t say what you really want to say; try to get along with everybody, and we’ll all feel good because we’re all being nice and it feels better to get along with someone than it does to be in conflict.
They are reasonable goals, really. Harmony and connection do feel so much better than discord, and letting things go just keeps you lighter, healthier, and more centred in the present moment. But letting go of challenges before you’ve had a chance to deal with them isn’t particularly aligned with wisdom. Fast-forwarding over pain and difficulty in an effort to let it go is not true healing, but a ‘spiritual bypass’. And continuing to open your heart to people in order to be liked, and likeable, and ‘nice’, when these people are incapable of seeing or honouring your light and beauty, is not to be confused with kindness. It sounds more like a sad devaluing of self-worth to me.
It’s a wonderful thing about growth, that it expands with its own chugging momentum. After writing about assertiveness in my last blog post, I stepped more decisively into my power. I felt it immediately in the non-guilt I experienced after locking the kids in the basement. (Just kidding. I spoke sternly to them, which is not uncommon. But it felt good to not feel bad about it for a change.) So with my awareness expanding and my personal power growing, I began to notice, to my great dismay, all the situations in which I diminish myself, allow myself to be diminished (those two are the same, really), or have been painfully unaware of my own worth.
There are certain people, for example, to whom I would say I’ve been spinelessly nice. This stems from my genuine kindness and good-will, and my desire for love and connection. I want the happy-good feelings that come from friendship, mutual respect, appreciation, affection, and even love. But here’s what: I don’t think these people even like me. Or that they ever have. So we’re all nicey-nice when it is necessary for us to see each other, me being effusive and open and even playfully self-deprecating (Noooo, Robin); but our exchanges are insincere. Their kindness is surface-only. There is no connection to be made.
And I’ve realized: Enough. It is possible for me to be kind, and even to send love to these people, without my behaving like a bubbly circus clown, or worse, like a military taskmaster, barking at my kids because Reine is trying to kiss me good-bye like a soap-opera star again and I feel stressed, fearing the scornful judgement of so-and-so. (I remind her often, “Kiss me like a kid, Ren,” which I understand to mean cute, closed, puckered little lips. But maybe swooping in to smooch me with her eyes moony and her face moving side to side is little-kid-like, in its sloppy, innocent way.) It is possible for me to be kind without seeking to endear myself to these people; without thinking that in order to do so, I must downplay my power and authority, laying down my sword, as it were, so as to appear non-threatening (“See? I’m not strong! I’m likeable!”); and without ever again caring one way or another what these people think of me.
What will I do instead? Take deep breaths before and during encounters with these individuals. Ground myself, and feel my deep connection to the earth. Smile, but speak only if it feels necessary. Take my time, establish eye contact, and remember who I am. In this case, because our interactions centre around the children, I claim my natural authority as Mother to Reine and Henry. (I feel a capital is necessary there. Maybe even All Caps. Or a flashing neon sign.) I stand in my power, confident in myself, LOVING myself, and utterly unconcerned with their opinion of me.
Heart open, but no wild gesticulating to invite them in. Light shining, but energetic boundaries strong. Radiating love, integrity, and consummate self-worth. (And also maybe imagining that I am Boudicca, the Celtic warrior queen.)
What emerges for me as the moral of the story here is that we can be kind, and care about other people, without caring one little bit about what other people think. This is an important point, and a challenge for me, because indifference to others’ opinions can seem like coldness, and coldness doesn’t seem very nice. (I once tried to order dinner like Claire Underwood, the powerhouse character portrayed by Robin Wright in House of Cards. I channeled her icy elegance, her level, unflappable demeanour. And when the server arrived, I balked and buckled. I could not do it. Even just ordering brussels sprouts, I could not pull off her icy indifference.) But in order for us to be kind to ourselves, and to tap into our power and amazingness as the unique beings we are, I think it is essential for us to set others’ opinions aside. To say what we want to say, do what we want to do, and be who we want to be.
Sigh. There is a situation in my life in which I’d say I’ve taken quite a bit of shit in the name of amicability. And even last night, preparing to put the final touches on this post with “Kindness does not mean compromising integrity! If integrity calls you to speak up, speak up!”, an incident arose that set my heart to racing and put my conviction to the test. Was it really going to be necessary for me to take a stand again? To engage in what was sure to be a futile, ultimately hostile exchange, shining the harsh light of truth on this person’s endless fucking lies and inconsistencies? Again? And then a second thing happened, a post-script as it were, that softened the situation and freed me from my truth-telling, take-no-shit responsibility, and I was hugely relieved.
So peace prevailed. And the conclusion gets amended. Loving ourselves, knowing our immeasurable worth, and not being afraid to radiate our light out into the world mean that sometimes we may court disfavour. And we want not to be so concerned with others’ opinions of us that we censor ourselves in our powerful expression. Kindness to others does not require that we compromise our integrity. But honouring ourselves is not an incitement to confrontation, either. Our power can be gentle. It is possible for us to shine our light without blasting it at full wattage. You decide.
But I’d advise those not rocking the highest vibrations of truth and love to keep a pair of sunglasses handy, just in case.