You’re only as kind as you are to the one you think is least deserving of your kindness at the most inconvenient time of your life.
Here is the challenge.
- Think of the most recent (or current) argument you’re having with your loved one (parent, sibling, friend, spouse, coworker).
- Write it down your complaint.
- Draft a statement removing assignment of blame and taking ownership of your accountability in the conflict.
- Take full ownership of your accountability in the conflict. This may take a few re-writes.
Examples look like this.
- My boyfriend said he’d be home by 10. He texted me at 10 saying he was leaving. He didn’t get home till 1 am.
- He disappointed me when he said he was going to be home by 10 and he wasn’t.
- I was disappointed because he wasn’t home when he said he would be. I guess I should have known better than believe his words.
- i) I was disappointed when I chose to believe his ETA even though he’s never been on time in 3 years I’d known him.
ii) I let myself get disappointed when I chose to believe his ETA even though I knew him well enough not to.
This is often where people stop. No, not done yet…
iii) I know the guy, I know his habits. I got mad at him for something I totally knew he’d do. Sure, he promised last night that he’s finally heard me and this time it’s different. But, deep down, I never did believe his ETA, and I am overwhelmed with the urge to defend my anger at him for being late. This means the anger is not a direct result of his actions.
I was probably already upset and angry about something else – possibly at something he did last week, my childhood, or even the lack of my control over his flaws, or my life not turning out like a fairy tale. And I was looking for an outlet I could justify. He was the convenient target because he did come home late and because, no matter how unfairly I treat him, he wouldn’t leave me.
Now, that’s the accountability challenge. Can you tell FULL accountability?
Anyone who wants the fights to stop must take accountability.
Being “nice” means being pleasant and harmless. Being “kind” means being respectful, supportive, and looking out for people’s interest. It means that the nicest thing you’ll do will make you popular and the kindest thing you’ll do for your loved one may infuriate them. It means “nice” is self-serving and “kind” serves others.
If you want to convince me that you’re a kind person, please know I’ll watch how you treat:
- Teachers, referees, and police officers,
- The homeless,
- Parents (if you are a teen),
- Your enemies, and
- Your spouse.
When you ask someone “What does love mean?,” they are usually pretty eager to give you examples. “It means they want you to be happy,” “it means they put you first before themselves,” or “they care about your thoughts, ideas, and dreams.”
Are these statements wrong? No, they are not in its specific situations. But they are wrong if you expect it.
Someone tells you they love you, and you say “and therefore they mean they’ll always put me first.” This is wrong. I’ll give you an example.
My friend’s friend’s car failed one hour out of town, and she called her boyfriend to come pick her up. He said “no.” She didn’t think he had a good excuse. She’s very upset. She eventually figured out a way to get home. My friend is fuming on her behalf, telling me this story. “If you love someone, you’d be there for them in times of need!”
I asked, “But does it what ‘love’ means to him? Did he say or do something before that caused his girlfriend to expect him to pick her up?”
No. The answer was no. He despises driving. He hasn’t really ever been a guy to drive her places or pick her up after a party. “But she was stuck, and he wasn’t there for her in time of need!”
“She wasn’t, and she didn’t. She figured out a way home,” I responded, “Did he do or say anything before that made you believe ‘in time of need’ for him included needing a ride?”
No. I continued, “Is he a stand-up guy when she’s in a crisis?” Yes. The answer was yes. He takes days off work when his girlfriend is ill. He cancelled a day out with boys to be with her when she lost her job.
The conflict in this relationship happened because the girlfriend heard “love” and attached extra benefits to it. The guy was the same guy for the 12 months they were together. But her expectation of him changed when he said the word “love” a few months in. This is very common.
From small things to big things, like
“Now I don’t ever have to go to a party alone.”
“I have someone to share chores with.”
“If I lose my job, she’ll support me.”
They didn’t say those things. They said “I love you.” They are the exact same party-hating, chore-avoiding, financially-rigid person you have known for a while.
If you attach extra benefits to that word, you are the one creating conflicts.
The parent’s explanation was that they don’t want the child to look down on the less privileged.
I didn’t know how to tell her that her sentiments, while coming from very good intentions, are misguided and downright insulting.
If anyone thinks anything resulting from privilege can be reduced or undone by simulating poverty, that couldn’t be more misguided. If one child has no relatives, no parents, or no money and as a result receives very few Christmas presents, Christmas presents is one of many ways this child’s life is impacted. It’s akin to offering to kill one ant when a house is infested by carpenter ants.
So I told them, “You know my parents didn’t have money, and my Santa gifts sucked. Yes, it sucks to be disadvantaged in many ways and then now Santa too. But they’ll be ok.”
What I didn’t say was this:
After saying all that, you’re still giving your child a gift? Nothing you would buy for your child will be shitty enough to make it even with a poor kid. Thinking of a resolution to a problem and doing it half way is entirely self-serving. It doesn’t help the other kid unless you do it all the way (e.g. equivalent gift), but doing it half way makes you feel good like you’re doing something.
Why don’t you teach your child to not bully others who got different gifts?
When I can’t/don’t do something, like play sports well or clean the apartment, it’s called a flaw.
But is it though? If it’s a flaw, it assumes that everyone is supposed to play sports well. That’s certainly not the reality. Majority plays around average, with few playing exceptionally well.
So if everyone is supposed to be average, how is my playing average a flaw?