I don’t know anyone who hasn’t felt that. It’s the little voice in the back of your mind reminding you that you hurt someone. Maybe it was someone else, or maybe it was you. Maybe it was how others see you.
There is a quote I love, attributed (I hope correctly) to Mary Wollstonecraft that goes, “No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.” For me, it summarizes the internal struggle we all face, between kindness and cruelty. It’s easy to say something mean–for a laugh, as retaliation, and especially for social currency. There are all kinds of reasons that can lead someone to cruelty, but they’re all rooted in fear. I challenge you, dear reader, to think on this. Leave a comment if you think I’m wrong.
Courage is being scared and doing the right thing anyway. That’s what it takes to be kind. Whether it’s standing up for someone (yourself or another), letting someone merge in front of you while you’re driving, or forgiving someone who can hurt you again, every act of kindness has some risk involved.
Here’s my point: the kindness you show others has the capacity to inspire, but all it takes is one mistep to lose your integrity. I try to be kind, and I usually succeed. But not always.
Not always… Seven years ago, the company I worked for at the time sponsored another annual pizza and bowling party. I had a couple beers in me, and I’ve never been a great bowler, but I was having fun. I was chatting and laughing with my teammates when a Demi Lavato music video popped up at the end of the lane we were using. I made a humorous quip about the quality of my game as compared to the quality of the artist, and people laughed. But it was mean, and I instantly regretted it.
Most everyone had enough beers to only remember that I was funny, but there was one person who was sober, who had been a good work friend up until that night. Something changed between us after I said what I said. I think he must have counted on my kindness right up until that moment, because we drifted very far apart after that.
Wish I could take it back.
I still try to choose bravery every chance I get. Choose kindness, no matter how scary it can be. I have to believe everyone can wield authority without being a tyrant.
To Demi Lavato, to whom I matter not at all, I’m sorry for what I said. I wish like hell I could take it back…