I remember taking a course on children’s literature a year or so ago and my professor loved TEDTalks. She enjoyed showing us new inspiring speeches each week and having us think critically about them and ourselves. The first video she showed us was called The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown. Brown had been doing research for her PhD in social work when she had decided to look into what it meant for people to feel worthy – worthy of love, kindness, compassion, etc. In the end, Brown found that the people who felt worthy were the people who believed they had a reason to feel worthy. But it was more than this – these same people were also the ones who were vulnerable with their emotions and put themselves out on a limb despite their fear in order to feel something great.
It’s no secret that honesty and vulnerability kind of… well… suck. We compare love to heartbreaks and joy to sorrow because the times we have been the most vulnerable were the times we have received the deepest wounds. At some point, we stop trying to be vulnerable because building walls and hiding in our shells is better than risking being hurt. The truth becomes difficult due to its rarity to be told, and we lose the potential for joy as long as it means losing the risk for pain. But life doesn’t have to be this way.
We need to accept that we are imperfect people who will make many mistakes throughout our lives, and struggle is promised to us from the beginning. But we also need to accept that vulnerability is not a bad thing. Letting your guard down is how you let love in, and that should be embraced rather than feared. Be honest with yourself and with others. Maybe being weak is the key to growing strong.
We all know the golden rule: “treat others the way you want to be treated.” And while this is a wonderful rule to follow, it rarely is. The problem is that in times of strong emotion such as sadness or anger, our mind goes towards ourselves and not others – we think of how we’re being treated and not how we should treat other people. All we can focus on is doing what we can to make ourselves feel better, then we can treat others the way we want to be treated (but only if they treat us that way first). I’m going to be honest… I think this rule is garbage. It’s a rule that brings out the selfish nature in humans and encourages us to act based on how we think we should act, which, can sometimes be very wrong. Yes, treating others the way we want to be treated is good, but it’s important to remember that we’re all different and what I can handle may be very different from what you can handle.
A while back I was scrolling through social media when I found the phrase, “always be kinder than you feel.” I thought to myself, “now THIS is a rule I can get on board with.” Have you ever known someone who had a habit of casting their emotions on other people? This is the kind of person who, when feeling low, needs everyone else to be low with them. They’re not thinking about treating others the way they want to be treated, they’re thinking about treating others the way the feel they’re being treated – again, the selfishness in our nature is brought out. But if this person instead thought about being kinder than they were feeling, maybe things could be different.
There are days where I feel anything but kind. I wake up with a heavy heart and negative energy seems to be a lot easier to deal with than positive energy. But it’s days like this that I try extra hard to be nice. I remind myself over and over to be kinder than I feel. Obviously this isn’t something that I accomplished in a day and there are times where I have failed miserably, but I like to think that as long as I keep trying, I’m accomplishing something. The other night I was so angry I could barely sleep. One of my friends was being treated with an incredible amount of disrespect by another friend, and I couldn’t handle it. I wanted to scream, to lash out, to tell the person everything they were doing wrong… but I didn’t. Instead, I sent the person a message letting them know I’m sorry for what they’re going through. I let them know that I had talked to God about them, and I hope the hurt they feel goes away. I didn’t react to anger with more anger, I reacted with kindness and compassion.
Always be kinder than you feel.