If you told me not to ask, I wouldn’t.
But in years of people crossing lines
You’ve learned not to draw them
Where they can be seen.
Feeling melancholy thoughtful today. I finished listening to Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking” in one big rush. Faster than I wanted to, but the library loan due date loomed near. Afterwards I found myself thinking a lot about thoughtless actions.
Anger. Rage. Hate. Outpourings of vitriol and harassment. Self-satisfied, smug, self-righteous denouncements of strangers. Side-ways criticisms and snide remarks. No matter how justified we might feel in the moment, it’s usually a lot more about us than it is about the other person. Our own insecurities. Our own pain. Our own impotence, helplessness, and hurt, wrapped up and redirected at a target we feel safe in attacking.
I was re-reading a book that changed my life when I first read it. It’s called “The Wounded Woman: Healing the Father-Daughter Relationship” by Linda Schierse Leonard. In the forward, she talks about her own wounded relationship between her and her father. Linda was able to heal that wound, but only after he had passed away. As I was reading that paragraph, I found myself getting angry. I frowned at the book, and inside my head, I started having a defensive and accusatory response to the author. “Who are you to guilt trip me! Not everybody is in the same situation as you. How dare you judge me!” I thought. It gave me pause. What was I doing? There was nobody in the room but me. So, it stood to reason, that the only person passing judgement was me. Realizing this, I took a mental step back and reminded myself that the author was only talking about their own personal experiences. Not about me. It had never been about me. I re-read the passage, and found that my feelings of being judged had vanished completely. All the guilt I’d felt was projected, and once I recognized that was its true source, I stopped feeling the guilt as well.
With any hope, we all will look back at the times we acted like crazy, raving jerks, and have this kind of moment. Whether it takes moments, or decades. Where we stop to ask ourselves, “What was I thinking? And what was that REALLY about?”
No matter how much energy and seemingly reasonable thought goes into lashing out, it still remains a largely thoughtless act. Or perhaps a better word is “unaware.”
Kindness in the same situations, on the other hand, is rarely thoughtless. In fact, I’m not sure it is possible to act with kindness, when under duress, without specifically exerting one’s will to do so. Maybe when times are good, we might be able to act thoughtlessly kind, but when we have a moment where we WANT to lash out, but we CHOOSE to be kind, we are exerting a very purposeful (and very difficult) desire to do good.
If causing harm is thoughtless and unaware, and performing acts of kindness is intentional and purposeful, then what does that mean for the recipient of either?
When a person lashes out at someone me, maybe I would be better off if I could keep in mind that it’s probably not really about me. If I’ve done something in error, the people I love and trust will talk to me. They’ll communicate and we’ll work it out. They won’t try to cause harm if they actually feel there’s something I’ve messed up and need to fix. Lashing out usually only happens when the other person is at the end of their own rope. Or from people who are unsafe by habit, in which case the best thing for me to do is simply remove myself from their influence. No growth can happen with people that aren’t willing to grow. When a person lashes out, I’m not seeing them. I’m seeing only the default, thoughtless, unaware pieces. And those pieces are usually monsters and masks people wear, because they’ve momentarily forgotten how to be their human selves.
Whereas, when people are kind…well, that’s quite a remarkable gift, isn’t it? If kindness requires awareness and intention, then when a person is kind, we are seeing their inner being on clear display. Their compassionate, realized, present self. Which also makes kindness an act of trust, because that kindness can be used and taken advantage of.
What a beautiful thing it is, then, to be kind.
We’re all going to have thoughtless moments, but I hope I can practice cognizant kindness more often in the future.
I feel silly writing this. Like maybe it’s a naive ramble of thoughts. Is kindness really so powerful? Or is it simply a way to excuse bad behavior and get taken advantage of? That’s what the cynic in me wants to say. But I don’t think this type of kindness is without boundaries. If anything, it’s in a moment where boundaries are the strongest. Where a person can see someone else in pain, in rage, in a moment of thoughtlessness and think, “That isn’t reflective of me. I do not have to be the mirror to that hurt,” and then choose another path. Even if the path is just to be kind to one’s self, and give one’s self permission to leave, or let go, or simply let the hatred pass through and beyond and away. It seems like there is power there. I just…don’t quite know how to fully articulate it.
I thank you for your patience with my rambling musings. As always. That, in itself, is a form of kindness all its own.
In other news, we’ve started a mailing list for folks interested in Wavemen! Signing up is as easy as filling out this form:
The Spider Forest Collective, of which LeyLines is a part, also welcomed 10 new members this March. I’ll be featuring the new folks in batches as the weeks go on. This week’s theme is High Fantasy!