“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
I used to drive 30 minutes to a discrete building in another town where I’d sit for a golden hour among anonymous strangers who would speak the awful truth about their problems. I did this for many years. I spoke sometimes, but mostly I just listened. I’d tiptoe to the back of the room where I could sit and close my eyes and listen to people share their ups and downs, their joys and sorrows — and pain and disappointment, mostly. Sometimes, no one had anything to say, so we’d just sit there until someone felt a crying urge to speak before the meeting closed. It felt liberating to speak without inhibition, without fear of being judged, and without the encumbrances of polite chit chat.
I noticed one thing about many of us in that room: we were nice people who, ironically, were nicer to others than we were to ourselves. The life lesson I learned from my hours spent listening, speaking, and watching was that I can’t give what I don’t have. Kindness cannot be mandated. This may sound selfish, but the first person I need to be kind to is myself, and that may sometimes mean that the kind thing is to say “no” or to disagree. Sometimes it means I just have to walk away and let things be. Being honest with myself and others have improved most of my relationships, making any act of kindness sincere rather than some kind of social obligation. Kindness starts at home.
Katrina blogs at PuglyPixel.com