Commit to Kindness and Compassion
By Sandra Jeffs
The effects of abuse are far reaching and pervasive. Abuse takes many forms such as in verbal abuse from others including bullying, and the verbal abuse we heap on ourselves. It is in the form of emotional and mental abuse, neglect from parents or spouse. It is, of course, sexual and physical abuse. Also, elders are an increasing population who are experiencing verbal abuse, neglect, physical abuse and even sexual abuse.
It has been reported that 4 out 5 people have experienced some form of elevated abuse in their lives. Verbal, mental, emotional or bullying abuse that occurs repeatedly can damage one’s self-esteem, self-worth and cause lasting damage to a person throughout his or her lifetime. Many, people try to bury their wounds from this kind of abuse deep inside, “get over it” without really healing from it. The result of doing that can mean that he or she never fully accepts that he or she deserves to be happy or successful. It becomes a struggle to achieve their full potential and, if they achieve outward success, there can be a lingering feeling of not deserving it, thoughts that it won’t last, etc.
In a report by the International Center for Assault Prevention (http://www.internationalcap.
org/abuse_statistics.html) it cites the following on the forms of abuse:
- “There are non-physical forms of punishment which are cruel and degrading and these include punishment that belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules the child [or person]”. (Committee on the Rights of the Child 2006)
- “Emotional abuse may be more devastating than physical abuse. A child’s [or person’s] physical cuts and bruises usually heal quickly. But the emotional cuts and bruises take a long time to heal. Emotional abuse is very difficult for the victim to recognize. If it is occurring on a day-to-day basis, [the person] may see it as a normal behavior.” (International Center for Assault Prevention- TEEN CAP Manual)
- “The highest child homicide rates occur in adolescents, especially boys, aged 15-17 years and among children 0 to 4 years old.” (Global Estimates of Health Consequences due to Violence against Children, WHO 2006)
- “Deaths are only the visible tip of the problem. Millions of children are victims of non-fatal abuse and neglect. In some studies, between one-quarter and one-half of children report severe and frequent physical abuse, including being beaten, kicked or tied up by parents.” (Global Estimates of Health Consequences due to Violence against Children, WHO 2006)
All forms of abuse wound us. Verbal abuse is ubiquitous as we see it on TV sitcoms, TV dramas, movies, and comedians who excel at it and get famous for it. Verbal abuse certainly sets a predisposition to feel bad about one’s self, to have low self-worth and to perhaps continue to put one’s self in situations where verbal abuse, as well as mental and emotional abuse, are prevalent, e.g. unconsciously choosing to work for abusive bosses, having abusive friends or lovers or spouses, and so on. This perpetuates the cycle of abuse. Friends, both male and female, can often greet each other in derogatory ways. For example they might greet each other with, “Hey, dumb ass,” or “Hey bitch,” and they justify it by saying that their friend knows he or she is just kidding and they don’t mean it. If they don’t mean it, then why say it? When the friend is asked if they mind, they might say they don’t mind it, but their body language belies that claim. It hurts, even when it is supposed to be “an endearment.”
Accept the challenge to make a difference
What if you spent one month (or 90 days or even 150 days) finding 5 ways each day to be a kind person in either your words to others, or your thoughts about others, or doing a kind deed for someone, or stopping your own negative and abusive self-talk, or choosing not to watch a program on TV that has people abusing one another. Then, at the end of each and every day, write in a journal what you noticed or felt, what synchronicities did you notice occurring as a result of your kindness?
What difference would it make in your life to do this kindness practice? What difference would it make in other people’s lives?
I suggest that the benefits for you when you practice kindness are:
- It would help you to be more aware of how much judgment you carry around unconsciously and how much of it you heap on others, even if it is only in your own thoughts.
- With this awareness, it is important not to feel shame or to blame yourself. It is helpful to tell yourself something like, “What’s this about for me? Am I feeling scared, or threatened, or frustrated? Is there a more positive way to handle this?” etc. You can only change yourself and always remember to remind yourself that you are a work in progress, “[you’re} still working on [your] masterpiece.” Perfection is a myth and your goal should be to be whole.
- It would help you to find perspective and not take the abuse personally..
- When a person is imposing his or her negativity on you saying this to yourself can help, “It is curious that he (or she) would speak, or behave that way. I wonder what that is about for him.” Remember that all feedback, positive or negative, is always about the other person. It is their personal need to give it to you. It is not about your need to hear or receive it. They may say it is for your own good, or say that it’s a truth you need to hear. Nevertheless, it is ALWAYS their need to say or do or be that way. Your job, therefore, is to examine the message coming to you to see if there is benefit in it for you and, if so, what you should do about it, if anything. It is unnecessary to become a therapist and help the other person see the error of her ways. Often, just saying something like, “Food for thought,” is adequate to stop the negativity in a neutral way and then you both can move on. If the person continues to push his or her point of view, then say, “Message received,” and then change the topic or get out of the conversation altogether..
- It would make you more aware of the abuse you are exposed to and then enable you to find ways to deflect or remove the abuse from your life.
- Many times we are in situations where people are tearing another person down or gossiping about them. I have found that if I say something like, “I am uncomfortable talking about her when she isn’t here. Can we change the subject, please,” or, “Jeeze guys, I’d rather talk about …… (and then ask a question to get a new, more positive topic started).” With the first statement, it invariably stops all conversation and an uncomfortable silence can follow, but it makes the group aware of what they were doing. In the second it is less uncomfortable and easily sways the talk in a more positive direction, but the other people aren’t as aware of what they were doing. You can choose what you think is best or come up with another way to change the negativity without being judgmental.
The more you can do this, the more you begin to realize that everyone, including yourself, has faults and that most people have a positive intent behind their thoughts and actions. The positive intent might be of benefit only to them, not you, however. It is hard to recognize any positive intent when someone is attacking us in words or deeds and it does not mean that you must accept the abuse or try to rationalize their actions. It does mean that you are at choice about how to react to what is coming at you and a choice to react positively, benefits you more than a choice to react negatively.
You give your power away when you become angry, judgmental or a victim. Always stay centered in your own power. Always keep a clear perspective about what is really happening at that moment—if abuse, coercion, blame, neglect, or violence is coming at you, it is always about them and never about you. You may have done something to trigger it, but it is their choice to be abusive. Stop the abuse first. Reflect later on your own footsteps that may have initiated it, but, many times you did nothing to attract it and the abuser is claiming you did as justification. Get clear about what the situation REALLY is or was. If your behavior did influence the situation, resolve to change it without blaming yourself, and especially without taking on ALL the blame for yourself, as often happens when being victimized.
How to stay empowered is something we need to be teaching our children. Children by definition are not empowered and when living in an abusive house or situation, they become more powerless, feel worthless, and adopt warped perspectives. It behooves adults to pay attention to the children around them and intervene on their behalf when necessary.
I suggest that the benefits for others when you practice kindness are:
- Walking the walk becomes a model for others to follow. It helps them to take charge of their own negativity and transform it through your example.
- “Research, commissioned by insurance firm Simplyhealth, also found that good deeds had a positive chain reaction effect, with beneficiaries of the deeds feeling more motivated to help others themselves” (Macrae, Fiona, September 9, 2010, Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1310356/Dont-worry-happy-Doing-good-deed-day-world-good.html).
- “It elevates everyone’s mood and endorphins. Research has shown that when a random act of kindness happens, the receiver’s endorphins are elevated. Additionally, the giver’s endorphins are equally elevated. Plus, anyone observing the act of kindness has an elevation of endorphins” (http://thompsonpen.hubpages.com/hub/The-Power-Of-A-Good-Deed). What a way to feel high!
Kindness, compassion and love are the opposite of abuse and practicing them leads to a better world for everyone, including you. Begin to require that you and everyone around you practice kindness in every way possible.
The kindness practice
1st commit to practicing kindness in thought, word or deed for at least 30 days in a row. Then do it for another 30 days, and another 30 days, and so on. Make it a habit. Every day strive to do at least 5 acts of kindness or to be compassionate in some way.
- For example, you could just stop yourself from negative thinking like thinking, “that person is an idiot,” when someone is driving too slowly or cuts you off on the road. Instead, change the thought to something like, “That person has his own style of driving. Stay safe.” You can also silently bless the person. I have a habit of blessing everyone I encounter in a day by saying in my head, “Bless you with peace, prosperity, health, and happiness (this blessing style comes from Jeff Gignac).” It certainly gets you out of the judgment of others. I have personally found that I start feeling very joyful and I have so many people randomly smiling at me, or greeting me.
- You could compliment someone for something well done. You could share your positive feelings for a friend or family member that you have not previously expressed, and so on.
- You could stop a round of complaining at work and direct coworkers to a more formal and less judgmental way to voice valid complaints about the workplace.
- You could stop gossip, or remove yourself from the gossip conversation.
- You could stop someone when they are being abusive with you. This is an act of kindness as it changes the negative dynamic and may even help the other person to change his behavior.
- You can remove yourself from very abusive situations or relationships. People often cite lack of money as the reason they can’t quit their job or leave their relationship. Find a way to solve that problem, reach out to helping organizations, to friends, or family for help, rather than damaging yourself by staying. Money is important and even crucial, and more important and more crucial is our well being. People die every day because they stayed too long in physically abusive situations. People commit suicide every day because they can’t take the bullying, the coercion, the ridicule, and the mental and emotional anguish. It is an act of kindness to get out of abusive situations or relationships.
- You could do a kind deed for someone else: let them in front of you in line at the grocery store, pay for someone else’s meal at a restaurant, mow your elderly neighbor’s lawn, send a beautiful card to a dear friend or a family member, and so on. Here is a website with a list of random acts of kindness that could be done: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas.
2nd every night spend 5 minutes writing by hand in a journal what 5 kind things (or more) you did that day.
- Note how you felt at the time and how you feel that evening about it. Refrain from beating yourself up if you didn’t achieve 5 acts of kindness that day. Resolve how you will remember to do the practice the next day.
- Notice any synchronicities that occurred as a result of your actions. Did anyone respond positively to you (or otherwise)? Did anyone give you feedback? If so, what was it? Did you notice a cumulative positive influence around you as a result? Begin to look for how your world is changing for the better because you are changing for the better.
You can blog me about your experiences with your Kindness Practice at http://sandra-jeffs.myshopify.com/blogs/news
Effects of Sexual Abuse:
- 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).1
- It is estimated that 20% of rapes go unreported.
- About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
- From 1995-2010, 9% of rape and sexual assault victims were male.10
- 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape.1
Effects of victims of sexual rape are:
- 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
- 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
- 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
- 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
- 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
(The above statistics come from: https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims).
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, one out of ten Americans ages 60 and over has experienced some form of abuse. The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study determined that for every case of abuse that went reported, nearly 24 cases went unreported. By 2050, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that adults ages 65 and over will comprise 21 percent of the population. As a result of these factors, experts believe that elder abuse will continue to increase and pose a serious public health problem that will cost the health care system billions of dollars (The above statistics come from: http://www.newyorknursinghomeabuselawyerblog.com/2014/05/researchers-one-in-ten-elderly.html).
Domestic Violence Statistics
- One out of every three women will be abused at some point in her life.
- Battering is the single major cause of injury to women, exceeding rapes, muggings and auto accidents combined.
- A woman is more likely to be killed by a male partner (or former partner) than any other person.
- About 4,000 women die each year due to domestic violence.
- Of the total domestic violence homicides, about 75% of the victims were killed as they attempted to leave the relationship or after the relationship had ended.
- Seventy-three percent of male abusers were abused as children.
- Thirty percent of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband in the past year.
(The above statistics come from: http://www.domesticabuseshelter.org/infodomesticviolence.htm#statistics).
Types of Maltreatment Children Suffer
Maltreatment can take many forms, and some children can suffer from more than one type. Since 1999, the majority of children confirmed to be victims of child maltreatment experienced neglect. The following are the percentages of children who experienced maltreatment in 2005 USDHHS, 2007):
(The above statistics come from: http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/fact-sheets/child-abuse-and-neglect-statistics.html ).
Bullying statistics show that about 77 percent of students have admitted to being the victim of one type of bullying or another (http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-statistics.html)
Do the words we hear and our intentions change our molecular structure?
In the movie “What the Bleep….” it showed the work of Masaru Emoto who froze water and then took pictures of it to see the crystalline structure of it. Clean clear water produced beautiful crystal structures and polluted water produced incomplete and misshapen structures. He then took the clean water and put words on the bottles. On some he put positive messages like “I love you,” and on others he put negative messages like, “I hate you and want to kill you.” After 24-48 hours he re-photographed the bottles and the water with loving words return beautiful crystals and the bottles with hateful words returned damaged and ugly crystals. See photos below from: (https://peaceloveprosper.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/dr-masaru-emotos-water-crystal-experiment/).
The implications from this are powerful. A human body is 50-80% water. If hateful words change the molecular structure of water, it changes part of our molecular structure, too. This would argue for being kinder and more loving in our words.
However, researches consider this study pseudoscience as Emoto did not follow scientific protocol. Water is highly susceptible to temperature changes and if it was not handled exactly the same every time, it could produce different results that were incompatible with Emoto’s findings. As yet, no one has bothered to try to recreate his work under scientific protocols, so we do not know for sure if his work was valid (Is Masaru Emoto For Real?!! http://is-masaru-emoto-for-real.com/ ).
Nevertheless, it seems logical that damage occurs due to negative experiences in the same way a polluted environment harms us. It is also well-known that the magnetic pull of the moon rules the tides and words/thoughts are electrical waves – our words can travel on radio waves and the power of prayer has also been documented. Therefore, whether Emoto’s work followed scientific protocol or not, it seems like it would still have some validity and must be considered as possible and relevant.
At the end of the day, let’s all just be more impeccable and kind with our words, our thoughts and deeds. Let’s build kindness and compassion into our societal norms and expectations. It is easy to imagine that wars might become a rare thing under such societies practicing this on a daily basis and that happiness might be an easier thing to embody. Just go for it!