“If you find one of the restrooms dirty, let me know, and I’ll clean it for you.”
The attendant stood in an airport bathroom filled with travelers. There wasn’t a hint of irritability or resentment in her voice as she went about her job. She talked to every woman who exited the bathroom, saying “have a blessed day” to each one. I was struck by this woman’s kindness and positivity in the midst of a thankless job.
I think I especially noticed this woman because there seems to be so much negativity in the world. Because of it, we can be surprised when someone is kind to us. Negativity isn’t hard to find- just turn on the news or scroll through your Facebook feed and you will find people trying to destroy each other with their words, or just generally trying to ruin things for other people.
Do difficult things need to be said? Yes, sometimes. But the way they are said can tear someone down or build them up. And then there are some things are better left unsaid. Words can promote peace or provoke hostility. There’s a Proverb that says, “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Of course, it can be difficult to answer gently when someone is trying to provoke or anger us. It can be so difficult when we are sure that we are right and the other person is wrong. But we can have both convictions and kindness. This is the challenge we have in leaving the world a little better than we found it.
The Atlantic wrote an interesting article about the power of kindness in relationships. Something “free”- not money, looks, status, expensive gifts, or vacations- is what keeps people together:
“Being mean is the death knell of relationships. Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research…has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved…there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship…’Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger,’ Julie Gottman explained, ‘but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger.'”
This seems so common sense, and yet kindness is still so rare. We can feel that withholding kindness is our right when we’ve been wronged. But a kind response doesn’t excuse someone else’s behavior, it is given despite it. Kindness is not weakness. It takes great strength to exercise self-control and respond with kindness. We have a powerful ability to diffuse tense situations with the ways in which we respond. It won’t be easy, and we won’t be perfect at it, but it is possible.
My challenge to you today is to think of someone who is difficult to love (or even like). How can you extend kindness to him or her? What might the outcome be? Or, how can you show kindness to those you don’t know? To someone who may be overlooked?
Image from pixabay.com
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