Wednesday, October 03, 2018


I've been wrong about something.

Very wrong.

Both Joe and I have often said something like, "What does it cost someone to just be nice?" or "It doesn't take anything to simply be kind." There are other versions of the same idea - kindness only takes the thought, the inspiration and the moment. We thought, the both of us, that anger and meanness and hurtfulness took work, energy, burned calories.


At least for me.

I've been quite sick the last several days, I'm healing faster that the doctors expected but not fast enough for me. I've not been able to 'count my blessings' because the idea nauseates me right now. I don't feel like giving thanks for the fact that I'm getting better and that something that could have been very serious has been avoided by early detection and swift action. No, my heart is not full of warmth.

In fact, I've found it very difficult to 'be nice' and 'be kind' to people. I find that my tongue is desperate to spit out mean words to people who even just vaguely annoy me. I find that my feelings are hurt more easily and my impulse to lash out is strong. I find that, without the energy that comes with good health - kindness and generosity - and good will takes a lot of work.

And anger doesn't.

Anger's easy.

I need to say that I'm not giving in to the impulse to be mean or nasty or spiteful or hurtful, except when I slip occasionally at home (Joe gets it but doesn't like it). But not giving in to the easy impulse, the one to lash out, takes work. Further, with one hand I have to hold back the impulse to anger and force the other hand out in greeting and welcome. It's hard work.

Really hard.

Kindness isn't a virtue because of the good it does. Kindness is a virtue because of the good it takes. Pushing past the justifications waiting to excuse myself for my actions to taking action to simple be decent isn't always easy. In fact, I've found that for me, it never is.

So I've learned something while off sick.

I've learned that nice people aren't just naturally nice, they are nice by decision. And kindness isn't a character trait it's a series of decisions, big wins over pettiness, that someone has to active make.

I saw a woman the other day, stop, kneel down, and chat with a fellow holding out a Tim Horton's cup to collect change from passers by, he was smiling at her and she was laughing about something. Money went into the cup, he said thank you and she wished him well. That's a whole lot of decisions that she had to make, that cost her time, and energy, and money, and she had to endure the glares of others who disapproved of her actions.

What she did came from the heart, but it also came from the mind, and the body and the sheer will to be decent. That takes energy.

I hope as I get better I remember all this, because I want to have the energy it takes to be who I want to be, not who, I've learned, I very obviously am.


clairesmum said...

Nobody is a saint when they are sick! Illness is 'dis-ease' and nothing feels the same as it usually does.
You are not inclined to gratuitous meanness or unthinkingly uttering harsh words.
In all my years as a nurse I can only think of one (devoutly religious) lady who truly did not seem to ever complain about her struggles, and who was able to accept help gracefully as her needs increased.
Her family said that she did not get irritable or impatient with them...but in 40 years that is only 1 person.
Most of us get very grumpy, often once we are starting to get better....kindness to self can be the hardest challenge, I think.
Take care.

Purpletta said...

The person who you ('very obviously') are, Dave... wow... well from where I sit as a reader of your blog, as an attendee at a training you did many years ago that shook me into thinking more deeply... the person I see in you is the person who shook me and a room full of people into thinking more deeply about ourselves, about others, about humanity in general, and about our many misperceptions, I see in you the person whose words inspired me to keep going on many days that I wasn't sure I had it in me or that it was worth it to keep going, I see in you a man who takes the time out of his life to share some incredibly personal feelings thoughts lessons not only for his young relatives to read in the future but also for the good of others and society in general, who puts himself out there for the right reasons and for the cause of justice and dignity for people and respect for people, a person who makes a difference each day for many people including "the people who are" (one of my all time favorites of your writing and one I introduce to many people often), I see a person who pushes himself to be a better version of himself day after day and to share the lessons along the way with those of us who struggle to have half the heart you do... The person you are Dave is a person for whom I thank God often...


Ron Arnold said...

Kindness is a spoon -

My wife is dealing with a serious endocrine issue. She has a limited amount of energy and it varies from day-to-day. Spoon theory is a nice allegory for it. For me as her partner - it's important to understand it, and respect it. If she is having a low spoon, high pain day - expecting kindness and affection is unwise. It does take effort. It does cost something. And sometimes even accepting someone ELSE'S kindness takes a spoon too . . . .

ABEhrhardt said...

What Ron said.

I have very little energy. It is a choice to be kind, and an effort. I try to be a good person, and MAKE that effort, but the cumulative costs get high.

I need that energy for other things, but I try to remember the future relationships with a person will be affected by today's effort.