They sometimes say “expectation is the root of heartache,” which I dare say can be a self-fulfilling truth.
Expecting the best takes a lot of practice. It takes reminders many multiple times a day… But after a time, it becomes more of a habit than it is not, and that’s when the magic starts to unfold. . .
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For a long time I believed that respect was earned – its value is simply too high to just hand out, I thought. But over the years I’ve changed my tune. Why suddenly such a shift? Well…it wasn’t really sudden at all…
I grew up believing that doing unto others is the appropriate way to behave – I certainly have my moments of deviation, but they are – by a long shot – the exception and not the rule. I’ve always, therefore, subscribed to the notion that what we give out comes back to us, multifold – Karmic law, Law of Three, whatever you want to call it…I’ve seen it far too many times to have any doubt at all. Add some painful and challenging experiences – and don’t we all have our stories? – my subscription to the idea that “rising above” is the right way to be has multiplied exponentially.
Hate is a good example. I don’t sincerely “hate” anything – in my mind it is a wasted emotion, and it gives far too much power to something I really don’t like (people, places, OR things.) Hate takes as much – or more! – energy than love. . .so if I’m giving that kind of attention to a “dislike,” I’m wasting precious resources, time included!
It took some time to understand that, though. As children we love to say, “UGH! I HATE HOMEWORK!” or “I hate so-and-so!” “Hate” just falls into the two categories of #1, a word, and #2, a negative. Over the years, however, I learned that it was an extreme expression, that it carried too much of a negative vibe to carry around, and that the act of hating in and of itself reflects poorly in my own conduct.
As with hate, respect is something I am putting out – it is part of my conduct and behavior. It occurred to me, then, that believing that respect was something other people had to earn was a really narrow-minded view. I can go around being a tyrant but that reflects on me only. I could also go around being a sycophant or victim-worthy subservient…but that too reflects on me (not to mention gets me into trouble.)
Treating others with respect doesn’t mean I have to give out free passes or put people on pedestals, let’s be clear. What it means – to me – is that I treat others with decency and kindness.
Now…let me also say… I live in a tough city. Even MY buttons are pushed at times, and that says a lot! But I am constantly checking back in with myself when feeling irrational, upset, frustrated etc… If I can’t be respectful (and in certain moments, I don’t feel I can live up to it) I simply do not engage. Easy as that. The only person accountable for what I put out is me, and if I put out something negative…it’s going to get me into trouble in one way or another.
As my behavior is my own, how other people behave is their business. In the modern world (and in a tough city), people might argue that others “don’t deserve respect.” Conducting myself in as positive a way as I can doesn’t mean I don’t see the poor behavior of others, that I dismiss it, that I allow it, or that I’m saying “go ahead and continue acting that way.” It just means that I am putting a positive energetic spin on myself.
When dealing with someone I see often, simply rising above allows me to move forward through my day without the burden of taking on his or her attitude, and neither the weight of being a nasty person (which I don’t want to be.) If, however, it’s someone I’ll likely never see again, I still can move forward knowing that I’ve been upstanding in spite of someone else’s conduct.
Do I do this perfectly? Hell NO! I’ve learned that I’ve got plenty of limits, and that I’m just as subject to bad moods, grumpiness, and don’t-play-well-with-others as some serious offenders. BUT…I know that, deep down, I don’t want any part of drama or negativity. That fact in and of itself means that I can do a lot to avoid it – namely, work on my on attitude, and approach interactions with respect. How others respond to that is totally on them (and the great news there? TONS of freedom not having to take that on!)
It is always up to us how we want to feel, what we associate with, what we allow… Acting disrespectfully reflects negatively in every possible way, and speaks volumes about one’s character. To show respect even when it doesn’t feel warranted, however, also says rather a ton about a person. I aim to be the latter, if for no other reason than to me it is a noble pursuit energetically, as in terms of self development. I have a ways to go too but you can be sure I try to check myself. Often.
A long-time friend of mine recently posted this and it gave me quite a smile. Not only because I had the fortune to have been raised with the same principles (and family and friends who also observed them), but because those dearest to me inherently abide by every single item mentioned.
The distinction of “gentleman” isn’t awarded lightly (the word itself is imbued with class, grace, poise, and dignity – aspects that are rarer, perhaps, than they should be, and that take true allegiance to be sincere.) It is a way of life whereby one upholds oneself to a rather exacting set of morals and values on a daily basis…ones we would all do well to maintain.
These – kindness, respect, common decency etc. – needn’t, therefore, be relegated to one sex above another…but remain an aspiration for us all.
Kindness and compassion are two traits that I personally value high up on the proverbial moral list. I have the great fortune to be close to many individuals who posses both of these, and the absolute honor to work with children with disabilities and among their communities where they are found in spades.
I sincerely believe that each generation has seen the progression of our species and discovered with it an innate and creeping fear – we manage to embark on new territory with frightening (and seemingly increasing) speed. As a Martial Artist part of me feels that the world has become more dangerous, and there is ever more opportunity to abuse and to bully – the forums are countless, whereas…once upon a time…they did not exist. (Think social media, internet chat rooms, cell phones etc…) It’s hard not to see the glaring negatives.
But…my mind is admittedly wired to be overly optimistic. That doesn’t mean I am not based in reality, or that I don’t take life seriously (whether it be bills or the threat of being car jacked.) But I see the immense value in keeping a positive outlook as much as is humanly possible because I have seen the tangible impact it can have. This week I am completely down for the count with a kidney infection – couldn’t say where it came from, but I confess it has been quite painful and body-rocking. I’m a dreadful bore to be around, slow-moving, and probably not smiling a ton… But I feel thankful. I see the good.
For one thing, I feel blessed to have the help and care that I do from my husband and appreciate feeling love from my family. As importantly, I recognize that I’m not terminally ill! I have all my limbs. I have all my senses. I haven’t been jumping for joy, certainly, but I have not lost sight of the fact that this is a short bout. I have nothing to complain about, and certainly no right to be yelling at anyone, nor taking out my frustration in a negative way. This was an out-of-the-blue lesson, as often they seem to be.
I also think sometimes the Universe wants to say, “I really think you need to slow down for a minute because YOU won’t on your own!” Frustrating that may be for a personality type like mine, I have to accept it. It’s not a fun stroll in the park, but there is value in having to slow down (or flat out rest.) There is an additional benefit in that it reminds me that I need to be kind and compassionate to myself – it’s okay to rest.
Even when I feel horrendous, I know how blessed I am. It’s important to say thank you to my loved ones to express my gratitude for the kindness they show me, or others along the way. For instance, I appreciated that the ladies at the blood lab were as sweet as they were – it was a little thing, but they were kind, and I noticed. I even appreciate the people who make the amazing whole wheat english muffins I’m eating.
The world is a tough place – whether more or less so than the past, who knows… I think each era comes with some pretty challenging circumstances. But we don’t have to be bitter, or treat others unkindly. We don’t have to abort compassion to buffer ourselves, or lash out in response to someone else’s poor understanding of proper human interaction. Lofty it may sound, and perhaps also unrealistically utopian, I truly believe that the more compassion and kindness people show one another, the better off we all would be.
I live in a tough town. Some days I really notice the effect… My DNA defaults to seeing the world from someone else’s lens (or trying to), and to coloring everything with an empathetic heart. But there are days I feel like an angered animal in my own skin and I sincerely chalk it up to the environment (40 years of living with me gives me good insights when engrained M.O.s are changing.) It’s an interesting experiment in a way – incredibly enlightening, and I’ve welcomed the learning. It has taught me just how valuable it is to maintain my own standard of airing on the side of kindness. Why? I don’t want to contribute to the downfall I see around me (and I don’t want to be pulled further into the depths with it.)
My recent travel was also quite a fiasco, between cancellations, unexpected delays, missing connections… I was tired and frustrated but yelling doesn’t help anyone in a situation like that – it wasn’t the gate agents at the airport who were responsible. It wasn’t the pilot or stewardesses… Various people kept asking why I was smiling and it occurred to me that I guess most people don’t (a fact that actually made me feel sad.)
I didn’t really know who was to be held accountable in all cases (two planes themselves for breaking? A mechanic long gone who maybe could have done a better job? A supervisor who should have triple checked the panel work?) But would it matter if I did know who was at fault? Not really… There was no sense in getting crazy because at that moment all I could do was be resourceful and figure out my next move. I couldn’t control the external circumstances, only how I was going to react to it. I wasn’t trying to catch a flight to Tokyo, I wasn’t stuck in a hostile territory (well…that can be debated!), and I knew I’d figure out a way to get to my destination at least in 24 hours.
Having compassion and kindness for the players involved encouraged them, also, to have the same for me. And they did. They took care of a lot for me, including arranging a long drive to get me to my destination and sending me a credit for inconvenience – I saw them feverishly trying to get my bag pulled at one point… They were legitimately putting in the effort (which we should be honest doesn’t always happen these days even if it is at the common core of a job description.)
I spent 20 minutes on the phone after the fact waiting for a manager so I could commend the key people who helped – I could tell that acknowledgement and appreciation would matter to them, and a kind word can go a long way. I sent an e-mail doing the same just to be sure it got to the right people. Will I ever see those agents again? Probably not. Does it matter? Absolutely not. To spread kindness and compassion doesn’t take a lot – in fact, I’d argue it takes less than to hate, to be angry, and to yell. But it changes lives. It makes people want to return the favor, to work hard…it helps them to feel good about their contribution and to, therefore, continue making a positive one.
If everyone could do the same, the environment would shift dramatically. Though it isn’t realistic to expect everyone to eagerly jump on board with a “love more, hate less!” hippie-like mantra, it doesn’t hurt to live that example as much as we can. And it doesn’t mean we can’t seek out environments which are more in tune with these principles – it is impossible not to feel the shift when compassion and kindness are blooming in spades around you, and when you recognize that there is a choice about what we do with what’s presented to us.