How Unexpected Acts of Kindness are the Most Powerful, Least Expensive & Most Underrated Agents of Change
by Daniel D. Maurer
News Flash – People Are Different
In a world that is increasingly divided, it's easy to see differences between people.
Think for a moment of all the disparate, polar-opposites that exist between folks . . .
Football vs. Baseball (vs. Soccer vs. Jai Alai vs. Jogging)
Vegan vs. Meat Eaters
College Educated vs. Life Educated
Dogs vs. Cats
Rainy Day Lovers vs. Sun Worshippers
Drinkers vs. Non-Drinkers
Public Transit Riders vs. Bikers
Mac Users vs. PC Geeks
AA vs. NA
Of course, these comparisons are somewhat benign. (Except for the Mac/PC one – that difference can prove especially annoying.) When you take into account other contrasting views—some that, historically, have become a cry to destroy the "other"—things become even more complicated.
For example, take these humdingers . . .
Protestant vs. Catholic
Christian vs. Muslim
Non-Believer vs. Believer
White vs. Black
Republican vs. Democrat
Science vs. Ignorance
Rich vs. Poor
Tribe vs. Clan
Nation vs. Nation
The fact of the matter is that differences exist. As a writer, I notice these differences any time I post something on my blog or publish a book. I enjoy it when I receive accolades, but loathe feedback when someone notices an error or simply flat-out disagrees with me.
Maybe you struggle with the demand to be right, or simply have others agree with you. I think the root cause of issue is an urgent need to be loved or cared for by anyone you meet. Well, 2nd News Flash: this doesn't exist for anyone! It's like I know this fact, that people are different and will not agree with you or even like you, but I consistently fail to let others be even when I think they're wrong.
You're not for everyone, and everyone doesn't have to be for you
I think one of the reasons why I'm so afraid of others disagreeing or not liking me is a defensive mechanism. I still struggle with anxiety and I'm hyperaware with my surroundings. I want to feel safe. Part of that safety dictates that I make sure you're not mad at me.
Well, I'm human. I'm going to piss you off sometimes. And sometimes I'm not wrong, but neither are you!
Because sometimes there is more than 1 way to look at something—BOTH answers can still be right!
For better or worse, I grew up as a people pleaser. It wasn't just a necessity to say "thank you" or "you're welcome" either—I was raised to think of other people before myself. Strangely, this has become a handicap for me today, because I. Can't. Please. Everyone.
I've had to learn how to be selfish, and recognize that it's okay that I have my own preferences. I've had to learn also that others have the full capability to make their own choices and to let those be.
The lessons I've learned in 12 Step recovery have been especially important to build these spiritual muscles. Allowing others to simply be and to love with detachment are valuable lessons and useful tools. One great piece of advice I've read comes from the book Light is the New Black by Rebecca Campbell. It's really wonderful and I think you'll like what she says too.
Truthfully, the BEST exercise to quash this need to constantly be liked or agreed with is by daily practicing random acts of kindness. Why? Because when we give to others without an expectation for reciprocation, we not only begin to feel good about ourselves, but we also start to see that differences can make the mosaic of life that much richer.
How Unexpected Acts of Kindness are the Most Powerful, Least Expensive & Most Underrated Agents of Change in the Whole Wide Universe
Let me tell you a quick story . . .
Once, when I was a kid, I saw an elderly neighbor struggling to remove the grass-clippings-collection bag from their lawnmower. Since I like to help people, I wanted to give him a hand. Except . . .
I knew that my family didn't care for this neighbor very much. He was a "radical," a "right-wing nutjob" and a "John-Bircher." Aside from that fact, he had expertly filled the role as the angry old man in the neighborhood screaming at kids to get off his lawn . . . by yelling at me and my friends to get off his lawn when we were playing a game of nighttime tag in the nearby woods. His property was adjacent to the woods where we liked to play.
But, I took a chance with the lawnmower deal. I asked him if he could use a hand.
I'll never forget the look on his face. He just stared at me in surprise that I had been walking by and offered to help. He stood back. "Be my guest," he said.
I managed to get the bag off and we dumped it in a pile he kept ironically in the woods where we had played tag.
I don't remember if we conversed afterward. And he continued to be the neighborhood curmudgeon, despite my willingness to help him out. Probably, his political views didn't waver either.
But you know what?
I was changed.
And perhaps—in some small way—he was, as well.
The point I'm getting at is that the way we transform the world isn't necessarily through grandiose, great big, flashy "leadership" roles. More often than not, we stir the world to kindness through gentle gestures of thoughtfulness or impulsive acts of compassion.
By doing so, we get ourselves out of ourselves. We recognize that the distinctions we so joyfully lift up aren't as vast as we once imagined. We see, too, that it's okay to not be liked by others, and that we can still show compassion and empathy to those who are different than ourselves.
Daniel D. Maurer is the lead obfuscator-and-takedown-artist-of-addiction-triggers and the errant-word-and-sentence wrangler at Transformation is Real. In two weeks, he'll be releasing "into the wild" his recovery story which just so happens to be the Introduction to his new book Endure: The Power of Spiritual Assets for Resilience to Trauma & Stress. Did I mention that this will be FREE for you? Yeah. It will.
Stay tuned, cowboys 'n cowgirls. Change. It's Real.™