Forty Things I Learnt Before Turning 40: Lesson Thirty-One

I’ve learnt it takes nothing to be kind. You only have to turn on the news or scroll through a social media feed to see that the world we live in can be a pretty harsh place. Especially in the last 18 months of the global pandemic that is Covid-19, life has been tough and challenging for us all. The way we consume news has changed rapidly over time and it seems that we are constantly bombarded with devastation locally and internationally, which often makes it difficult to avoid negativity. This negativity can then permeate into our own lives if we aren’t careful, which is why I believe kindness is so important and it starts within ourselves.

I think that the harshest criticism that we can ever receive, is that which comes from ourselves. Whether it’s punishing ourselves for a mistake we made, beating ourselves up over a missed opportunity, at times no matter what the circumstances or who else might be involved, we are always hardest on ourselves. This is why self-talk, self-compassion, showing kindness to ourselves is so important. The perfect song to remind us to be kinder to ourselves is P!nk’s ‘Fuckin’ Perfect.’

You’re so mean when you talk
About yourself, you were wrong
Change the voices in your head
Make them like you instead
So complicated
Look happy, you’ll make it
Filled with so much hatred
Such a tired game
It’s enough, I’ve done all I can think of
Chased down all my demons
I’ve seen you do the same

Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel
Like you’re less than fuckin’ perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel like you’re nothing
You’re fuckin’ perfect to me

In life, we will inevitably come into conflict. Most times we will have the opportunity to decide whether we draw our sword and battle, or we retreat and walk away. One of my favourite quotes from Pat Peoples in Matthew Quick’s novel ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ is, “I am practicing being kind over being right.” I try to summon this in my head when deciding if it’s worth going into battle. Sometimes you know very well that you are right and that it would take very little effort to prove that to someone else, but for what result? Oftentimes I will also remind myself of another favourite saying (from Mark Twain), “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” Or often it can be better to adjust our mindset towards that person and believe that they are doing the best that they can. In Brene Brown’s ‘Dare To Lead,’ she shares how her husband Steve adopts a positive attitude, despite questioning if a person is really doing their best. “I don’t think you can ever know for certain. But I do know that my life is better when I work from the assumption that everyone is doing the best they can.” For me, adopting an attitude like this is not only kind to them, but also yourself, another way of protecting your peace.

Sometimes the win comes from walking away from a battle, knowing that you haven’t caused any unnecessary damage. This may seem like a weakness, but mark my words, I can just as easily put someone in their place if the situation calls for it. I was raised to be polite but this can often be exploited by others, so it’s necessary to know when not to be silent. As Taylor Swift said in an article she wrote for Elle magazine, you need to “Grow a backbone, trust your gut, and know when to strike back. Be like a snake — only bite if someone steps on you.” It’s a fine line, but I think with time and experience I’ve learnt to find that balance. Taylor sings about this in a song dedicated to her late grandmother, ‘marjorie

Never be so kind, you forget to be clever
Never be so clever, you forget to be kind

Never be so polite, you forget your power
Never wield such power, you forget to be polite

I think it’s just as important to speak up, especially if by saying nothing, results in a misunderstanding between two people. As Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

In this day and age, trolling seems to be a favoured pastime of many. I don’t get the appeal. What satisfaction could you possibly get from spreading negativity. And especially from behind a screen. It seems pretty pointless and cowardly to me. I mean, most of the time, the online hate that is thrown towards celebrities won’t even reach their eyes or ears. And even if it did, I can’t imagine they would care anyway. I discovered a quote when reading Jay Shetty’s ‘Think Like A Monk’ from Japanese Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda. He said, “It is impossible to build one’s own happiness on the unhappiness of others.” For me, I feel sorry for those trolling, similarly to bullies. The one thing that I tell my students when they have been the victim of bullying, is that it says more about the bully as a person than it does them. The bully is clearly not happy within themselves or with their own life and they think they can make themselves happy by bringing someone else down. How sad is that? Sometimes the only way to combat their negativity is to follow the advice from Selena Gomez to ‘Kill Em With Kindness.’

There’s always somebody you’re willing to fight, to be right

Your lies are bullets, your mouth’s a gun
No war and anger was ever won
Put out the fire before igniting
Next time you’re fighting

Please, kill ’em with kindness

One thing I have found positive power in, is that of random acts of kindness and paying it forward. There is nothing better than doing something nice for someone, knowing that they won’t be able to repay you. It’s like the quote that states we should ‘plant trees whose shade you do not plan to sit in.’ A chaplain I once worked with introduced me to the concept of ‘filling someone’s bucket.’ The idea is that we fill someone’s bucket by doing or saying something nice for another person and in doing so it also makes us feel better, therefore filling our own bucket. Delta Goodrem sings about this in her song ‘Kill Them With Kindness.’

Making sure the world is a better place for everyone
Send out the love you want to receive
To people that you see in the streets
Take the chance to do something kind

I believe in peace, I believe in us
I believe we can change the world
With one act of love

I honestly believe that no good comes from hate, anger and negativity; but so much can come from kindness, love and positivity. At the end of the day, we could all do well to remember Martin Luther King Jr’s quote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

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