I don’t know who else can relate to me here, but choosing the high road can get super exhausting after a while. And choosing to constantly sit yourself in other people’s shoes so you can love them well takes so much energy. Not throwing your middle finger up at the car who wrongly honked at you, not hurting people back who have hurt you, keeping secrets safe even after someone has tried to ruin you, not immediately running into someone else’s arms when you’ve been dumped.
It can be hard because holding our breath and choosing to do better isn’t what we want to do naturally. We all know that feeling where our hearts are so broken that we don’t know how to breathe anymore. But you should not only keep breathing, you should pray for them as well. When anger strikes or when we’ve been hurt, take a moment and stay calm before responding. Find a reason to be the bigger person. Find a way to defuse conflict with love, because we know hate only fuels the fire.
At least for me, this journey hasn’t been easy. Especially when I used to live on a very unhealthy side of it before I learned how to stand up for myself.
I remember plenty of moments when I was younger where someone would throw their pencil case across the floor and tell me to go get it just for the fun of watching me do it, where people would create messes and tell me to clean them up as they walked away laughing, where I would be left to do all of the work in group projects, and basically I was made into a servant of sorts whenever opportunity arose. I was always too kind to say no. But honestly, I was just too weak. I couldn’t stand being yelled at or ignored even more for not doing the thing they told me to, so I’d do it to avoid being any bigger of a disappointment than I already was.
Now, this isn’t good. No one should be a doormat. If you are, you are just enabling horrible people to keep being horrible with no accountability. And that was what I did for a very long time. But kindness isn’t about being used, it’s about your posture towards others.
I don’t know exactly when I grasped what kindness truly is, but today gave me a fresh perspective on it. In the back of my mind for many years, I believed myself to still be a doormat. I’ve had people tell me I am many times, people I love with my whole heart. It always frustrated me to hear, but I didn’t know how to respond and figured it was true if enough people told me it was.
I have completely astounded others by the way I’ve handled conflicts without lashing out, without being hateful or stirring the pot some more. I’ve walked away from situations and been scolded for it because “they deserve to be told how horrible they are” or “they deserve to feel what they put you through.” Yes, maybe. But I’ve found most often that people who are stubborn in their ways will not hear you and that you telling them off or lashing back gives them an excuse to make you the problem, the crazy one, the reason they treated you so horribly. So most of the time, I make a few attempts to communicate and talk things out. If those are denied and I really still have something I’d like to say, I write them a letter. Or sometimes, I will just walk away completely.
What I am trying to say here is this: Kind people are not kind on accident. It is a very purposeful choice to be that way. A hard, painful, tiring choice, but also a very rewarding one on a personal level.
After my experiences, I should’ve been the bully going into high school and college. I should’ve been the one hurting others because I was hurt for so many years. But regardless of it all, I could never even fathom being mean to someone. I found myself on the side of knowing the pain so intimately that I never, ever wanted another soul to feel it. So when I see someone alone in a room, I go talk to them. When someone falls, I’ll ask if they are okay. When someone seems quiet, I check on them. I don’t do this perfectly, but I try to make it a priority for myself.
Because I live my life trying to serve others and love them well, I often end up on the sour end when relationships fall apart. I usually end up the one who is rejected or left or taken advantage of. I end up the one broken and beaten down most of the time. But what people don’t understand is this: I am not a doormat. I am brave. I am intentional. I am strong.
Sometimes, I am the only one who tries to love someone. Even though they may hurt me in the end, I am there to show them what love looks like from beginning to end. So often, hurt people hurt because they don’t believe they are worth sticking around for. They push you out to feel safe again, but by respecting and loving them through it, even from a distance, you can help them to realize their value. To me, love isn’t love if it can expire based on treatment. I respect people even when they haven’t respected me because they are human beings; they are worthy and deserving of love and honor. It doesn’t matter what they do or how much they hurt me.
This doesn’t mean I have to cater to their demands or do everything for them. This also doesn’t mean I need to keep people in my life who are toxic. It just means walking away without starting a fire.
Until today, I thought I was weak and a pushover. But now I see that choosing kindness, maturity, and love makes me who I am. And it is much harder to choose those things in the midst of pain than it is to just lash out or hurt back. We innately want to cause people the hurt they have caused us. It isn’t in our nature to forgive and walk away. But as hard as it is, as miserable and lonely as it feels sometimes, I have found peace unlike anything else I’ve ever known in choosing the latter.
Choosing to love when you are hated, neglected, or hurt is incredibly difficult. I have done it many times. It doesn’t get any easier. So how, then, does that make me weak?
When the easy route is getting back at someone or demeaning them during an argument until you feel better about yourself, why do we look at that like it is a strength? Like confrontation in a negative way proves your dominance or correctness?
See, if you really are right, you won’t need to prove it. Someone could go around and slander your entire personhood, but you know who you are, and so does anyone who matters.
Kindness is knocked out of us by the time we are adults. Kindness is not a trait anyone practices for the fun of it. Kindness is a way of life that you have to choose to embrace every single day. Kindness is going to leave you disappointed, frustrated, angry, even empty. But we choose it because the world needs balance and there is enough hate going around already. We choose it because it refills our souls. We choose it because we know how it feels to receive the opposite. We choose it because we like the challenge.
When times truly become difficult, I often remind myself of Jesus and his ministry on earth. He is the example I look to when I forget why I love to the point that people on the outside think I am missing a few screws in the head. Jesus loved people who not only hurt and rejected him but hated him to the point that he was murdered. His crime was simply love. And He came knowing full well that this would happen but deemed us worthy anyway.
So, if Jesus loved me enough to die by my own hand in order to offer me a free gift I didn’t deserve, I have no excuse to give up on kindness and love. I have every reason in the world to love with my whole being, even in the midst of rejection and pain. I have every reason to be kind, no matter the circumstance.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.