Random acts of kindness — have we lost the ability to be kind?
The phrase “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” was written by Anne Herbert on a placemat in Sausalito, California in 1982. It was based on and, in some way, to counteract or contrast the phrase “random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty”.
This phrase has always resonated with me and I believe it to be a basic tenet of Tikkun Olam. Translated into English this means “to repair the world”.
Has the world gone less kind?
Could it be that the world we live in is less kind world than the one we grew up in? Or are we just more aware of the unkindness and incivility as it is splashed over every image electronic or otherwise that we see and hear? When yelling seems to be a perfectly acceptable way of making your point.
At the time Herbert wrote on that napkin these profound words I was the age my daughter is now and I believe the world was a kinder place. Or at least more civilized.
I am not talking about healthy debate. I am talking about a way to interact with other people that begins in hostility and anger. An anger that is almost instantaneous. Quite unprovoked and completely over the top. There is no counting to ten in this scenario. Someone disagrees with you and you scream. It makes no sense to me.
Kindness isn’t weakness. Decency should be our lowest common denominator of human interaction, not the highest. It’s not a free speech issue either. It’s free to say whatever hurtful crap you feel like saying because there are no repercussions.
Common courtesy is how we live together in a peaceful society. We all have people in our lives that are quick to anger and never apologize. (Tweet it!)
Or apologize by still blaming us for making them act the way they do.
Who feels better?
It reminds me of a car advertisement about an engine that can go from zero to 60 in under 5 seconds. So too, is seeming calm to rage in under 60 seconds.
I have a theory that people who yell and scream and feel justified to vent any time they want somehow feel better after the incident or outburst. Like letting steam out of a boiling kettle or taking your foot off the gas pedal. Unfortunately, the one who was yelled at or had anger screamed all over them has no such relief.
And further, I believe this hostile behavior of completely out of proportion outbursts is a learned behavior. Temper tantrums are for little children who cannot or are unable to express their feelings in any other way. A grown ass adult shouldn’t be allowed to behave that way. No matter who they are.
The more people get away with it, say over a lifetime, the more acceptable to them it becomes. “He sure does have a temper” or “that’s just how she talks” or “he’s under a lot of pressure” aren’t explanations. It’s acceptance and enabling this sort of behavior to continue and go unchecked. To be laughed off and unconfronted.
Human interaction doesn’t have to be confrontational. There is an us and them going on in the world today that evokes hostility. In many cases I believe anger covers up fear and fear is scary. So why not just yell until you feel better? Because it takes a terrible toll on the people around you.
It happens all the time
I see this in my practice with people in relationships both long and short term, where one partner can’t control themselves and is unable to filter or doesn’t want to get a handle on their outbursts.
Unfortunately, we have all sorts of ways to overreact now. Not just fact to face but on the phone, text, email, Facebook, FaceTime. And the other person in the relationship tries to be reasonable and in many cases apologizes for nothing in particular just to get back to some sort of calm.
It’s the containment that we, as a society, have lost the ability to do. You feel anger? Take a breath. Are you mad at someone or something? Don’t lash out. Try instead to figure out the trigger and work on that. I have a friend that used to make the sound of a truck backing up when she thought someone was going to dump on her. It was very effective at getting people’s attention and changing the atmosphere.
Don’t let anyone be unkind or uncivil to you. If someone says something, and you are not afraid for your life, call them on their crap. Walking on eggshells until the next outburst isn’t the way to live your best life. And just because it has always been that way it doesn’t mean it always has to be that way in the future. You deserve kindness and respect.
The next time you feel yourself get angry, stop and think about the source and proportion of that anger. You are not a three-year-old. Get a grip.
When we are in a relationship of any type it seems a basic premise that their feelings or comfort should be important to us. And as I get older I find the people whom I spend most of my time with have many lovely qualities, but above all I would say kindness is the most important one.
Examine the interactions in your life. If you feel angry and bitter work on that and not taking it out on the people around you. Model kindness.
Be kind to yourself.
Now over to you: How do you control your anger?
Originally published at www.tamaramendelson.com on September 24, 2018.