What is the One Thing that Will Make all Your Relationships Last?

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“Be kind. No matter what happens, you will always be proud/glad you took the high road.” ~Steve Horsmon

Yes, even when you don’t want to be kind—even when you are blind with anger—actually especially then—because, usually, that anger is coming from some other, deeper emotion/feeling/cause.

For me, anger usually presents itself first and right up front, masquerading as a sense of injustice, so I feel that I must defend myself against the “attacker.” But I am finally learning to hold my tongue and unpack the anger before letting that first quick burst of anger flow out of me in words.

When I do this, I find that my anger nearly always comes from feeling like a failure. And upon inspection and conversation with the “attacker,” it has never been their goal to express that I am a failure.

So I have been forcing myself to get into the practice of saying kind things and doing kind things. Then the difficult part for me is to have the self-discipline to actually do that, to walk that talk—even when I don’t want to and even in difficult conversations/confrontations.

And it is especially difficult to do when I don’t want to—when I get triggered into anger and want to allow myself the “luxury” of not having to do any mental and emotional digging in myself before speaking.

It does indeed satisfy some selfish, childish, impulsive need I have here deep inside me when I simply let anger instantly burst out, unfiltered. But later, I regret it so profoundly, that I have learned that this first, instant gratification of having “spoken my mind” is so not worth that rash impulse.

It requires self-discipline. It requires me actually, physically putting my hand over my mouth sometimes. It is choosing to control my impulses—to say nothing or say only kind things. It is not easy—not for me anyway.

I came into my present relationship as a much older and hopefully kinder person, determined to not make the same mistakes as my younger self. And do I always accomplish this? Gawd no!

But I am more aware, and I recognize when I’ve failed myself.

And it really is myself I am failing—not him, not the relationship. It is me who decides my own standards and ethics, and when I make a stupid decision to go ahead and be mean or passive aggressive or speak in anger, it is me that judges myself most harshly later.

As soon as I let anger exit my mouth, I regret it. I regret in the moment, and I regret it even more later.

Being kind means not pointing out when I think someone else is wrong when it’s not important if they’re wrong—when their being wrong will not harm them or me. And when it does matter—when they are in some sort of danger because of being wrong, it means pointing it out very gently and carefully.

It means I don’t have to be right at someone else’s expense and just because I have some ego-need to be right. It means letting someone else be right. It means letting someone else feel good and not feeling like I have to ruin that in any way—even when I don’t feel good and it rubs salt in my own emotional wounds to hear about their happiness.

For me, it means remembering others and asking about their issues without them having to remind me. It means paying attention. It means forcing myself to come up out of my introverted-ness enough to really see and hear them, to offer them my empathy—and even sympathy—when they need that.

It means finding something good, handsome, pretty, sexy, sweet, beautiful competent, funny, masculine, laudable, etc. about someone (it’s really never hard to do) and then telling him or her about that.

It means choosing my words; emphasis on certain words; and tone very, very carefully when I am angry and/or stressed out.

It means taking a stand against hurting anyone—myself included, because it is going to hurt me greatly later to look at the regret at having not been kind. It means giving up blame and remembering forgiveness.

“Blame is described as a way to discharge pain and discomfort.” ~ Brene Brown

It may mean saying nothing at all. It may mean leaving. It may mean never going back, because it is certainly not kind to continue to let myself be hurt by someone and stay in an abusive, hurtful situation/relationship.

But it also may mean leaving and only coming back when I am not angry and can speak without anger.

It also may mean sometimes staying and listening to someone else’s anger without getting triggered into anger myself—which is so difficult for me! When someone is expressing anger at you, do you instantly get angry in return? I usually do, even though I believe that is no good reason to ever get angry.

“I am starting to think that kindness is the closest one can get to God.” ~Peggy Christiansen

I have been working for years on changing the deplorable (embarrassing!) habit I had of saying things in a passive aggressive manner. Like saying something seemingly innocent and kind, but saying it just the right way so that I know it will actually make that person feel guilty instead.

Gag! Yuck! Sick!

So many times in the past, I would find myself angry but too much of a coward to own it and say it directly, so I would “say” it by a few well-placed words or word emphasis instead.

Passive aggressive much?

Years ago, I enacted the self-rule that I’m not allowed to do that anymore.

It takes paying very carefully, close attention to my motives—especially when I am angry or feel threatened in some convoluted, habitual way. It is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, this careful, self-inspection of motive each time I get triggered.

I’m trying to be gentle, too, in my digging, trying to be kind to myself. That is the most difficult, frustrating part for me.

So, what is the one thing that will make your relationship—and indeed, all your relationships—last?

Kindness.

“My religion is kindness.” ~His Holiness the Dalai Lama, XIV

The elephant journal version.

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