Removing Roadblocks

“When your mind changes, the world changes. When we respond differently to the world, the world responds differently to us.” ~Mojo Sam

I’m trying to find a way to work an audacious understatement into today’s post, but really, there’s no connection. So, instead, I’ll briefly detour and congratulate the folks at Elon Musk’s SpaceX for quick thinking. When their next-generation Starship rocket blew up shortly after take-off on April 20, they were swift to admonish unimaginative journalists for calling it an explosion. No, the SpaceX geniuses corrected, it was a “rapid, unscheduled disassembly.” If there is a Cooperstown for euphemism, this one will get in on the first vote.

Now, back to kindness….

DSCN3280Previous posts explored two big barriers to kindness, time and fear. Let’s look at a few other obstacles that get in the way:

Being oblivious. We miss a lot of opportunities to extend a kindness or even receive one by not being present. By being glued to the petite screen of a smart phone or tablet. Or by being so wrapped up in our own internal drama that we simply don’t notice other people—the person behind us whom we fail to hold the door for, the driver trying to merge onto the highway, the co-worker frazzled by a deadline we could help them meet…. Be that person who pays attention, who puts down the phone and offers a hand or a word of encouragement.

Being uncertain or shy. This is related to fear, but it’s more about not wanting to call attention to ourselves. A lot of us were raised with messages telling us to stay under the radar, don’t stand out, blend in (Hi, Mom!). So, the idea of overtly extending a kindness can be daunting. If I go over to that guy and offer my hand, or give him a couple of dollars, people will notice me. They’ll judge me. If I do nothing, I’m safer. Let go of that voice and of caring what others may think. The judgments of others aren’t our business.

Laziness, inertia or habit.  We’re all set in our ways and sometimes it’s hard to get off the couch and extend a deliberate kindness. By definition, stepping outside our comfort zone is uncomfortable. Do it anyway. Pretty soon, our comfort zone expands to include small and large adventures in helping.

We’ve forgotten how. This has come up in kindness conversations lately. People have admitted that after a couple of years of pandemic isolation, they don’t seem to be as quick to pick up on those social cues that tell us how to behave. We’ve gotten in the habit of pulling back, instead of reaching out. Let’s all be patient with one another and we’ll get past this.

Keeping Score. When I first noticed this as a barrier to kindness, I told a story about a rather extreme case of keeping score—a woman who made her Christmas card list a test of friendship worthiness. While most of us don’t do anything that extreme (I hope), we do keep score in other ways. We don’t extend an invitation because it’s their turn to host us. We get mad at our partner because we changed the kitty litter last and today it’s their turn. Keeping score might mean weighing who put more effort or expense into a gift, or whose turn it is to reach out by phone, or even who initiated romance last. We don’t know what may be happening in someone’s life that hindered them from sending the card, inviting us over, or picking up the phone. Instead of maintaining a ledger of whose turn it is to do whatever, let’s try offering the benefit of the doubt and extending ourselves whenever the urge strikes. Let’s use the energy and mental bandwidth once reserved for keeping score to ignite more joy and connection in our relationships.

Once we’ve done our best to move past the barriers, we open ourselves and others to vastly more kindness, and that’s when our world really starts to change. That’s where the magic happens.

Have I left anything out? What else might prevent us from extending or receiving kindness? Or perhaps you have a favorite euphemism you’d like to share….

“There is no other doorway into kindness and all its gifts but through the gentle risk to open ourselves, however slightly, and try.” ~Mark Nepo

15 thoughts on “Removing Roadblocks

  1. The keeping score thing is a tough one. It’s hard to be in a situation where you are always the initiator. You have to be kind to yourself if you think someone doesn’t care, and while there may be extenuating circumstances, I see a lot of people go out of their way, or make excuses for people who just aren’t worth it

    Liked by 2 people

    • You make a great point, LA. If a relationship is consistently out of balance, i.e., one person doing all the giving and the other all the taking, that’s probably not a relationship worth maintaining. In the interest of self-care and self-kindness, sever the tie and move on. I think in most relationships, though, we hover around 50-50, and while they may get out of balance occasionally, it swings back and the two parties are there for each other when it counts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So many great points in this post, Donna. The acknowledgment that the judgement of others is not our problem is particularly relevant – how often are we limited by what we think others will think of our actions? You bring kindness to front of mind, which in turn makes me more mindful of it and hopefully a little kinder ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thanks for this post…you’re so right, there are so many things we let stand in our way from being kind. We need to identify those and move past them, because I really do believe that kindness is our only way forward.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Someone was keeping score about kindnesses done, reciprocated?!! Oh my, that is too much work toward a deranged goal, if’n you ask me. I’m kind just ‘cuz… I figure it all evens out somehow over the course of my life. But to keep a tally… that’s nutty.

    Liked by 1 person

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