Present, Listen and Kind

Yesterday, I mentioned how I had more coming about how I would want the people I love to know how much I loved them and that they mattered deeply. So I wanted to expand on that a bit today. As I’ve mentioned already, I’ve been taking Soul Comfort which has been a profound class for me in so many ways. This past week, they had an intentional living exercise that involved writing about what I’d want different people in my life to think after interacting with me, at my funeral, etc. I don’t want to give away the exercise as it’s part of the class and it’s wonderful and I recommend you take the class.

But what I did want to talk about is some of the interesting patterns I saw in my answers. Regardless of who or what it was about, I kept finding myself writing down that I would like others to think that I am kind and attentive and that when they are with me they feel loved and worthy. That I operate from bravery and not fear. Generosity and not scarcity. That I am paying attention. That they feel like they matter. That I am generous and unconditional with my spirit, patience, love and kindness.

I wrote down the word kind as an answer to literally every single question on the seven-page form. The word kind has been so forefront in my mind and soul lately that I almost switched to make it my one-little-word for 2014. I feel like there are many things I respect and love in others: Bravery, Intelligence, Generosity, Authenticity, Open-mindedness, Wisdom, Intuition…I can go on and on.

But, above all, kindness.

It seems, for me, kindness has a special place. And when I think of what I want others to think about me, I want them to think I am kind. I want them to feel I am kind. I want them to feel they can be whomever they are when they are around me and that they are not just accepted but loved and cherished just the way they are. That they are worthy. They belong. They don’t have to be or do anything for any of this. They just are.

I remember, years ago, I was taking a psych class and what I had heard of Carl Rogers really stuck with me. He was known for listening with his full attention. Not while sneaking a look at the computer or taking a note or cooking dinner. Not while preparing a response. But listening fully. This is something that resonated with me so strongly back in 2001 when I took the class and, twelve years later, it resonates just as much.

This is what I want people to feel when they are with me, that I am kind, that they matter, that they are worthy of being listened to with all of my attention. Not my top priority but, for that moment, my only priority.

I am not saying I do these things well today. I am saying that doing this exercise made me think a lot about where I would like to be. How I want to relate to people. I don’t care if people don’t think I am intelligent or successful or pretty. I care that people remember me as kind. I care that people remember how they feel when they were around me. And that the feeling they remember me with is how cared for they were. How worthy they felt around me. How loved they were.

The best part about all this was that creating this change is 100% within my control. I don’t have to change my job, my house, my degree or anything else in my life to get there. I just have to remember what I want them to feel and remember to do what it takes.

This isn’t to say it will be easy. It’s hard for me to be kind when I am stressed or rushed or tired. And I am one of those three things often. It’s hard for me to pay full attention to any one person when I have little boys in my life and IMs and emails. It’s hard to make others feel worthy when I might not be feeling that way myself.

All of these are hard.

But if it’s what matters to me, if it’s really what I care about, then it’s important to remember that. Because sometimes my priorities get wacky. I stress over something to do for work and yell at my kid. How well I did at work is so irrelevant and inconsequential compared to how I want my kid to remember me. (Obviously this is different if I do so badly that I lose my job etc. etc.) I would easily put my son over any job in the world and yet moment to moment, I don’t always follow this credence. There are many times, he loses my attention when competing with work demands. Many times I don’t give him my full attention even when I have no work but I am watching some TV or reading a blog. I do this more often than I’d like to admit. More often than I am comfortable with. More often than it feels right, to me.

Doing this exercise also reminded me that all the little things have to go. It doesn’t matter if my son’s room is messy. It’s not a good reason to be unkind. I can find a way to say it kindly. Or I can really even let it go. Sure, I’d like him to clean his room but what I really want is for him to feel my kindness, my love. What I want him to feel is how worthy he is and how deeply he belongs in our family just the way he is. How unconditionally I love him. Compared to these things, the room could not be more meaningless to me. And yet, I regularly scold him for not cleaning up. Filling this form made me realize that, for me, it’s really important to always be conscious of what I care about the most.

This isn’t even about dying. It’s not about how I want my kids, loved ones, friends to remember me. It’s about how I want them to feel right now. In every moment. These are people I love and cherish. I want them to feel that love, that worthiness all the time. I want to always be much kinder than necessary. Always.

I want to be present, to listen, and to be kind. Those are my three core values for my interactions with other people. When I thought about my worry list from yesterday, I realized that if I can ensure my interactions with my loved ones align with these three values, it makes me worry a lot less because then, at every moment, I am doing the best that I can to love them with all my heart and to make sure they know that I do.

I will find a way to get a visual reminder of these three words so that when I am caught in the rush of daily life, they can serve as a reminder for what truly matters.

1 comment to Present, Listen and Kind

  • Hanna

    This is what I have found to – even if I have a bad day, problems, arguments, I’m alright as long as I’m not mean or make others feel small or unworthy. It’s much easier for me to handle that others are inconsiderate than to deal with the fact that I have been so myself. About the “after death” thing I read something, I don’t remember where, some time ago, and I think about it often. It was a person who had died and about whom it was written “The only grief she ever caused was when she left us”. I want that.

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