Because I write for clients and I have a million things going on in my head at once, I typically have no problem hitting a 500 word a day limit without addressing the prompts given in my Facebook group, so I don’t always address them. But today’s prompt kept nagging me. “What would you write to persuade someone of something?” Finally, I realized why. I do in fact want to influence every single person I meet to always be compassionate.
The ABCs of life, right? There are so many opportunities to be kind to others, and you will find, once you try it, that it becomes infectious. It is like a drug. You want more – more opportunities to make people smile, to make people feel good about themselves.
Smile at someone. I am sure you have heard this before. It is really hard not to smile at someone who is smiling at you, especially one of those big, wide, Julia Roberts smiles. You just have to smile back. Try to be the one who initiates the smile. Go around grinning. Why the hell not?
Yes, I know Americans are joked about. Why do we insist on smiling all the time? And I’ve heard the feminist argument: “stop telling women to smile!”
But so what? Just freaking smile. It is amazing the effect a smile can have on others as well as on yourself.
In fact, start with yourself. Yes, you count here. Why, why, why do we forget in all of our acts of kindness to also be kind to ourselves? Why are we so willing to forgive others their trespasses, but we cannot forgive ourselves? I recently wrote a piece about hitting rock bottom, and I discussed what an awful person I was in the past.
I needed to hit rock bottom to see that about myself. But imagine if I had hit rock bottom, recognized my flaws and failures, and then just stayed there, impotent in my shame.
I had to forgive myself. I had to look in the mirror, see my cuts and bruises, and then work to heal them. And I have. I have watched my raw, gaping, bloody wounds scab and then scar over, and I wear my scars proudly now.
I am not proud of what I did, what I went through to get wounded, to slash and strike at others, and then get wounded in return. I am proud of allowing myself to heal, and not creating new wounds that need healing. The cycle is broken. I am proud of myself for loving myself enough to move forward, in kindness and in love.
You have heard of random acts of kindness, of course. People often give to charity or pay the bridge toll or Starbucks order for the person behind them in line.
And those are great. Keep doing that.
But we have so many opportunities to be kind in tangible, long lasting ways that are not so random. And often, kindness isn’t as simple as a smile.
I am hard on my students, on my five year old, and on my husband, in many ways.
I push my students to pay close attention to the strategies in test prep that I teach them. I call them out on missing steps; I look them in the eye and expect more from them than they came in willing to give.
And they love it. I had a student today say “Wow. I really get this so much better the way you teach it.”
I responded, “That’s because I’m so mean.”
I’m kidding of course. I act only out of love for my students, but that love does come across as intense and serious sometimes, so I joke that I’m the mean one in my center.
I have been really hard on my five year old lately about the language she uses. She has a tendency to talk negatively about herself or complain about something she doesn’t think will be fun, and I finally had to tell her to stop it altogether.
“Stop, Celaya. That’s it. I’ve had enough. I don’t want to hear about how you’re not good at something. I don’t want to hear how you don’t want to go to Trader Joe’s with me. I don’t want to hear it.”
“No. That’s it. Life is fun. You have a beautiful life. You do not hear me complain about doing things for you, with you. You do not hear me say negative things about myself. I will not let you talk like that.”
And now I am on her about it, relentlessly.
And my husband?
It takes him a minute sometimes (sometimes longer) to get out of work mode when he gets home. He has had people yelling at him, pushing and pulling on him, demanding from him, all day. He sells beer in big chain stores, and the business is good old boy cut throat corporate down to the letter.
“I’m sorry. You have to leave it at the door. You have to come in here with a smile on your face, ready to be Papa, ready to be a husband, ready to start this part of your day now. I know it’s hard, but you have to work on it, starting now.”
Because here’s the secret: actions are easier to change than thoughts. Much easier. Smiling at someone is much easier than thinking all people on earth are worthy of your smile, your kindness.
Following the strategies I give my students is much easier for them than believing in themselves and believing that they can get any score they want.
Saying nice things about herself and about her life is much easier for Celaya than changing her thoughts to only nice and positive things.
Coming into the house with no complaints about work and with a smile on his face is much easier for Carlos than actually believing that his work day is over and his happy home life has begun, and that the two are not connected.
But that’s part of the secret. That what starts externally will eventually effect you internally. Your actions will become your thoughts, and then your thoughts will become your actions.
So I am hard on the people in my life, in a tough love kind of way, in order to get them to start with what they can change, in order to get them to be kind to themselves.
Because if you can be kind to yourself, if you believe you deserve love and kindness and compassion, then you can believe it of anyone, everyone else in the world.
I don’t know what someone else’s trials and tribulations are. I don’t know what people’s motivations are.
What I do know is that I can hate the actions and not hate the person. I can disagree wholeheartedly with someone and still be kind, still be at peace.
And if you think some people deserve to be in hell, rotting in eternal flames, let them put themselves there. Because if you give them a push into the fire, you risk being burned yourself, or worse, falling into the flames alongside them.
Feeling bad, well… feels bad! Complaining, saying mean things about yourself or others, scowling at people, yelling, fighting, all of these things feel bad. And feeling bad is just as infectious as feeling good.
Once you act out negatively, you create that same ripple effect, only in the opposite, as when you smile. Now you have made yourself angry, someone else angry, and that person acts out, and on and on.
Thoughts are things, they become things. What you focus on, you create; what you create goes out into the world, and what goes out into the world, reproduces.
Energy never dies. But it can be changed, transformed.
Positive and negative actions, thoughts, and feelings are cyclical, and you can affect the cycle.
You can choose to be positive or negative.
Yes, it is a cycle. You may be caught up in the wrong one right now.
But once you realize that it is a choice, you can change your cycle.
Yes, you get to choose, right here and right now.
Choose kindness, choose compassion, and choose wisely.
What do you have to lose? Only things that you want to lose anyway.