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.
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.
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.