Tag Archive for: The Kindness challenge

When my kids began to date, I might have given more consideration to the topic than the average well-rounded, successful, happily married person. I was many things, but I was not that. My emphasis on dating was the expectations of each person, to maintain their integrity and to remain true to one’s self. My dating philosophy sounds easy enough. But so does resisting that last piece of fried chicken. We all know that a simple concept doesn’t necessarily translate to an easy execution. But if we can approach dating, or at least, our reaction to dating, with a few basic practices, I think we can better manage our grief now, and save ourselves from more grief later.

Coming from a divorced woman who has dated very little in the last eleven years, I understand why someone might disregard my opinion. Most people who read this are probably married or have dated much more than I. But what I possess that you may not, are a couple of things. One, I have learned a lot from my mistakes. And two, because of my divorce, I had the opportunity to discover myself, in a space of aloneness. Can I use that word? Is it a word? Dr. Seuss would use it, so I’m leaving it.

Time to reflect on my mistakes and emerge from a place of struggle and autonomy has equipped me for many things.  It’s the source of lots of opinions, based on personal experience. Additionally, I have had three dates since January, one of which lasted for three months. See? I am qualified.

At the beginning of my online dating experience, when it was fun and novel, I thought it would be relatively easy to share my experience. That was until I met someone I liked. Someone worth exploring. I wondered if he would be “the one.” I know, “the one” sounds ambitious. But I am hoping to find a guy who wants to share the rest of his life with me. Real-time documentation suddenly didn’t feel right. Reality TV is not in my future.

Writing about one’s dating life is super intimate. With good friends, transparency is my middle name. However, my middle name changes when we’re talking about going public. Being able to reflect and work through this has been a great luxury, and now I have some things I can share, that won’t read like you’ve broken the lock on my personal diary.

HERE GOES. A whole book could be written on this topic, so understand this is a snapshot of my dating philosophy.

I value the dating process. . .

I went into this relationship with the same mentality I had developed several years back when my kids began to date. If respected, the dating process is an awesome opportunity of discovery, before we make a permanent decision. I say, “if respected,” because often people don’t treat dating like a temporary experience. Instead, subconsciously they commit to the relationship in a permanent sense before there’s a mutual agreement of where the relationship is headed.

Unless both parties have agreed to marriage, I believe either party can call it off, FOR WHATEVER REASON. I understand that there is more to this when a couple has been dating for a long time. This point could have its own chapter. But let’s assume we’re talking about six months or less (but I’m inclined to have the same philosophy for longer periods of time as well). Regardless if one person feels the relationship going in a good direction, it is either person’s right to call it off, FOR WHATEVER REASON. This frees both people to continue in their search.

Breaking up (reverting to my junior high vernacular) is especially hard when you’re focused on marriage, you’re old(er), or it appears that a target has come into view. I had to remind myself of my own dating philosophy. That as much as I liked what I was experiencing, it would not serve either of us well to manipulate or maneuver it. Understanding that dating is a time of exploration, we both have the right to end the discovery.

The best and least we can give one another is kindness. We can’t and shouldn’t attempt to force virtues on another person. We have no right to demand any more than what they want to give us. If they have asked to end the relationship, I believe we should honor their request with very little contest.

Does that mean we were just handed a crappy day, that seeps into a few weeks? Probably. But that doesn’t change that explanations are not owed to either party. The breakup experience is still part of your story, individually and within your relationship. It’s the whole process that refines both of you. It is beautiful, valuable, and sometimes, difficult and painful.

Frequently couples “stick it out”, because the thought of hurting another person is so troublesome. Breaking up seems unkind. As hard as it is to be the breakee (new word), for me, it is more difficult to be the breaker (another new word), unless you don’t mind kicking dogs. OK, I’m joking, but for many people, the anticipation of hurting another person is something to avoid at all cost.  At times truth, authenticity, and sincerity may be uncomfortable and hurt. But almost always, it is the right thing.

If we grant each other this liberty, we can avoid the darts that get thrown and save us wasted time attempting to force relationships that result in bad outcomes.

Remember, we are D A T I N G.

Why it hurts so bad when it ends. . .

After just three months, with Stay at Home orders, and a long-distance relationship, it was still really sad to break up with Bill (Not his real name. Poor guy; he dated someone who blogs!). I think there are two main reasons breakups hurt. One is because we give someone our heart. The other is because we begin to establish a culture that becomes comfortable and familiar, which is where I love to sit. But for this post, I’m going to focus mostly on our hearts.

We hand another person the most tender, powerful part of us. The part that stores our emotions, desires, aspirations, hopes, dreams, feels pain, loss, and grief. We do this, because we care about something. Most likely, it is this other person. Although it’s not always just that, but this snapshot prevents me from elaborating.

This is no different than many things we put our heart into. On a team, you play to win. When you’re not on the field, you think about the game. You prepare off the field and execute on the field. You don’t hesitate. You move forward with ambition, desire, and determination. You dodge bullets, endure discomfort, and subject yourself to pain. On fourth downs you deliberate and make strategic decisions. Your heart is all in.

I think dating well looks the same. Of course, there are stages and circumstances vary. Some relationships require more effort and experience more challenges. They’re all different. Our hearts attach to the unique personality of the relationship. You keep at it because along the way you’ve decided this person is worth the efforts, sacrifice, or emotions you’re handing over. You’re in it to win it.

This is the beauty of life. You expose your talents, skills, personality, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. A lot is going right. Then you mess up a little, but so what? We all do it. It’s a fumble! You get back up and recover. You keep at it. But then the game clock ends, and you’re left standing there, wondering why you’re stuck in the middle of a play that can’t be finished. Nobody asked you, and the game is over. You didn’t win, and it hurts.

But here’s the thing: unless you cheated, lied, or stole, you played a fair game. If you gave it all you could, you played well. That’s all we can do when we’re looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right. My objective is to find a person who wants to play with me for the rest of my life. After a few sucky weeks, things begin to turn around. We recognize how much we’ve gained, and we’re ready to play again.

When in doubt, stand still. . .

This is an old saying, even before my time! If we aren’t sure about something, then we’re unsure, which means we’re in doubt. Right after a break-up, we are pretty unsure about a lot of things. The relationship, the sincerity of it, the person, our judgment, the list goes on.

I think the hardest thing to do at this time, is to stand still. We desperately want comfort and instinctually want to grab at the most convenient thing. Most often, we think we’ll find comfort in answers. We’re tempted to demand them in an effort to finish the play. What? I wasn’t done! You said this, and what about that? When we don’t get answers, we consider another relationship. We want to be assured that we’re okay. We are, aren’t we?  We’re desperate to compensate for the new loneliness and the abrupt change in culture that has us looking around like Marty McFly in 1955. If we’re not careful, we could find ourselves twirling, into the arms of a tragic country song.

In that moment, our vision is so blurred and our motives so self-serving, that really, the best thing we can do is to be still, be sad, cry, and pray. Even when it doesn’t make sense, we need to accept that we lost this one. There are a million ways we can interfere with God’s plan. I think we have the advantage of seeing his plan, if when in doubt, we stand still.

Trust God (when you’ve asked Him to guide you). . .

After the breakup, I kept coming back to this. We both prayed, together and separately, that God would bless us individually and as a couple. My prayers are a sincere conversation with God. When Bill broke it off with me, I wanted explanations as we all do. But thankfully, Bill was spared the tears when I chose to trust God and honor the dating process that I so much respect.

I mostly stood still.

I don’t think I can write this post without addressing two things. Yes, the hundred miles between us was a challenge. The Stay at Home orders were executed a few weeks into our relationship. That was an even bigger challenge. But I don’t consider either of those obstacles an explanation of why things didn’t work out for us. Because, if both of us wanted our relationship we would have overcome the obstacles that stood in our way.

When we date well, it will hurt when we lose (meaning the relationship ends). When we date well and lose, we will recover and continue. When we date well, and lose, and recover, and continue,  one day we’ll find our team, and win the game.

Whew… this was a long one. Happy D A T I N G . . . whatever that looks like during a pandemic!

We’ve had a lot of special recognition days at work lately: National Professional Administrative Day, National Classified Employee Week, Teacher Appreciation Week, Nurses Day; the list is extensive. I wonder though if maybe we need these days because we treat each other crappy by our lack of kindness or show of appreciation on all the other days. I’m still practicing my efforts of kindness that I learned by The Kindness Challenge that I wrote about a couple of months ago. This could possibly replace all these special recognition days. Nah, then I would’t have gotten that awesome gift certificate for a pedicure.

I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day. I like it better when make up calls occur before a date on the calendar appears. St. Patrick’s Day puts a tiny skip in my walk because I look forward to pinching people. But Mother’s Day is a little different, because mothers do feel a lack of appreciation and hallelujah, this is a day that warrants the make up call that is owed.

I am one of those moms who could talk about my kids and probably your kids for hours, especially when it comes to sports or health, being well versed in those two areas. One of my favorite memories is when our days were scheduled around playdates and rec center classes. Our days were filled with other things, but these are the things I recall with fondness, but didn’t appreciate at the time. When my son was two or three, he had a small spot in the middle back of his neck that I loved to snuggle and kiss. I’d grab his little body, wrestle it into mine, pull him tight and say, “Where’s my “favorite spot? I love my favorite spot!“ One day while on a playdate with close friends I overheard him say, “My mom loves to kiss my private spot.” EEEKS!

While some moms are looking forward to make up calls, for others this day might open wounds. You might not be a mom who takes your children’s love for granted, with a predictability of being honored on this day. You may not receive a tender word of gratitude, or have a spouse who will ensure that your child doesn’t overlook this opportunity to show his or her love. Your throat might tighten as you see proud postings on social media, suddenly wondering what the heck you’re doing staring at these expressions of love that are causing you sadness or even anger. Maybe you scoffed at the NBC report that an average of $80 is spent per person on Mother’s Day.

If you are that mother, I hope you’ll let some tears flow and ask God to restore brokenness and calm your heart. Ask for contentment when your family isn’t what you’d hoped. Remember that God says, “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Know that this day isn’t the end of your story, and neither is this world. Ask God to fill in the gaps where you fail. Ask that your children’s hearts continue to mend and that by His strength they will be overcomers. Know that in spite of the circumstances, and in your grief, there is one who loves our children more than we do, and in that obedience of lifting our hearts before God we will find success in the mess.

Last weekend I got to spend Mom’s Weekend with my daughter at her school. It’s her senior year in college. I’m reminded of how fast the time has gone (or tardy I am) by the photo journal I’d promised for her high school graduation that is not yet completed (it is close!). The previous eight years seemed painfully slow at times as we navigated a divorce and the loss of our foundation as we knew it, and then Bridgette’s eating disorder. Bridgette’s final year in college is one to celebrate as she’s returned to a healthy thriving young woman enjoying what most college students enjoy: independence.

While I longed for her to be independent and fully who God designed her to be, I hadn’t yet known what that looked like, and really, neither did she. Even though I desired her independence as much for her as for me, I was surprised to learn that I had grown to depend on her dependency. I was in constant contact with her, both a prescription advised by her medical team and simply by instinct; it was my mission to help her overcome this. Evidence of all our hard work revealed itself at the beginning of this last fall, and I continued to cheer her on. But my words that were once nourishment became more like excess water that she didn’t need. Our conversations were changing. Her need for my input, coaching and encouragement was decreasing. While her mind and spirit were beautifully developing, my heart was confused that it (I) wasn’t needed like I once was.

Unlike any other relationship I know, a mother’s love will navigate the path of a child with one thing in mind: to do all we can to maintain the relationship. As I navigate the course, I talk with friends, I read, I consider, and make adjustments along the way. Moving forward and pulling back, staying true to myself and honoring them, refocusing when things get wobbly, with an eye on this relationship that God granted me.

Along the way, always praying. I began praying for them daily about 10 years ago with a group called Moms in Prayer. The dedication to this weekly event created a lifelong behavior for which I am grateful. In my prayers I am humbled, I am reminded, and as in 2 Chronicles 7:14, we are promised that when we seek God’s face, he is faithful to answer us.

I never turn down a lovely gift, my favorites being a manicure or a gift card to a favorite gardening store I might add. But the joy of this gift of prayer to my children has been the gift that keeps on giving (sorry; I’m a Christmas Vacation fanatic). It’s the gift that gives back to me, bringing me reassurance and a contented heart. It’s success in the mess.

May you be filled this year with the same, and with a hopeful heart on Mother’s Day.

 

I need imagery reminders!

Last week our pastor spoke on the topic of cultivating kindness.

The sermon on February 4th was on cultivating patience. Christian or not, churchgoing or not, I think most people would agree that we could all use not only a reminder that we need to improve in the areas of kindness and patience, but I think we all need instructions on these character traits. Our need goes deeper than our casual desire to execute. A friend told me she didn’t think she needed a lesson in that area. She might have been confusing being nice with being kind. I’ve told my kids many times: Being nice isn’t the same as being kind. Being nice isn’t a character trait, but kindness is.

I love it when I get a recipe for anything. It makes it easer for me to put on my To Do list and get it done. Whether it’s a new 4 ingredient shortbread cookie recipe that my friend recently shared with me or simple steps in showing kindness, I appreciate the instruction that will produce something tangible.

I understand that treating people with kindness and patience doesn’t seem like something that would produce tangible results, but there are a lot of dark clouds that might be cleared out and heavy hearts that might lighten if we can apply some basic steps in showing kindness.

Our pastor Randy referred to two books he’d read in a recent sermon. He doesn’t do that very often, but I so appreciated him letting us in on his resources. One is called Love Kindness  and one is called The Kindness Challenge. Pastor Randy also referred to the other book; the Holy Bible. I like to put the word “Holy” in front of bible. It reminds me that it’s not just another book with opinions, but it’s holy and I am to respect and revere its contents.

Even without the bible references, The Kindness Challenge will work for those who desire better results with others, and within themselves. Shaunti Feldhahn tells us that kindness is a Super Power. A Super Power. Zap! The people with whom we want better experiences just need kindness exercised on them and like that, they are different, and we are different!

The claim Shaunti makes sounds almost absurd. She could have made a whole lot of claims that would satisfy our desires for improved relationships, but she takes it to a whole different level to call kindness a Super Power. To make that claim, I wanted to know what I had to do to get that power; the power to change relationships. Not that I have a lot of relationships to change. But even one relationship transcending to good is worth accessing a Super Power. Don’t we all have one?

I do have at least one where I know I’m not my best self. I’ve been told I’m kind, but really when I think about it, I think I’m more compassionate than I am kind. I’m compassionate to people who suffer. I’m compassionate to people in third world countries and the homeless or the underserved. I have a lot of compassion for single moms, widows and orphans. I’m compassionate to those who are good to me. But kindness extends itself beyond those. Kindness is for everyone, regardless of a category in which we can place them. Oh, I’m sure we can find a category that justifies being unkind. But Shaunti tells us that there is no category that defies the benefits of kindness. I have quite a list that could justify being unkind. I can be impatient with people and intolerant of their shortcomings. I may not say it (that’s being nice), but my spirit feels it. Shaunti doesn’t believe that we pour on the nice syrup just to gloss over others’ shortcomings, anger issues, imperfections, etc.  But she does believe that when we sincerely attempt three steps, it will usually change people, and it will always change us.

I owe the Comcast crew some nice syrup. They’re not the only ones. I’m not going to offer up a list on this blog, but I’ve already begun some attitude adjustments. It’s early, so I’m not going to claim any differences in my “victims,” but I feel a bit lighter and better for trying.

So, Shaunti’s recipe:

  1. Focus on the positive; negate the negative.
    1. Focus on what IS good, avoid what isn’t.
  2. Praise is the catalyst of kindness.
    1. Act in faith, not by feelings.
  3. Act on the kindness.
    1. Do something sincerely good for your “victim.”

I’m using the term victim; Shaunti isn’t. But when I think of how it feels to be on the receiving end of an unkind person, it feels victimish. The victim suffers to some degree when they (we?) are a recipient of unkindness. Whether it’s a slight on Facebook or a deserved reprimand because we’ve been passed around to twenty people and on hold for an hour, the ugliness is ugly and the victim feels icky. And to be honest, as righteous as I might feel when I’m the deliverer, it can take awhile before that dark cloud above me vaporizes and I’m whistling a tune again, not to mention praising God for his goodness.

The three ingredients for a kindness revolution look simplistic. I think possibly the hardest thing God asks of us is to love your neighbor as yourself and to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. He puts us to the test of loving those with whom we don’t like, those who are different from us, those who anger us, and so on. The Ten Commandments seems easier at times than loving someone who has hurt us or someone who hurts others!

So yes, the three ingredients is simplistic. We need more help and instruction than reading these three simple ingredients. We need to know how to put these things together and whip up some kindness in our world. And for that, I think you you’ll need to buy the book. If you graduate from that, you might want to take part in the Kindness Challenge. Take that relationship with which you’re struggling, apply your new Super Power to it, and watch magic happen.

Note: I’m sorry I didn’t provide the Amazon links for the books. I just can’t bring myself to do that to the other books suppliers who deserve your money, too!