My Story of Kindness
by Sandra Jeffs
In dealing with my own healing from abuse, I chose kindness as my avenue to heal. I believed that when being kind, to myself or to others, I would have to drop the pain and suffering, the anger and resentment, the grudges and judgments. I discovered that it was true, that anger dissipated, that resentment turned to compassion, that grudges seemed pointless, and judging others or myself was difficult to continue because I was busy finding ways to be kind.
My kindness practice started gently with a blessing I heard about from a man named Jeff Gignac (https://jeffreygignac.com/). He challenged people to SILENTLY bless everyone we encountered with this: “I bless you with peace, prosperity, health, & happiness” and to see what happened. What happened for me was that after three or four times, I started to feel really, really good. I got an endorphin rush and I was smiling and feeling peaceful inside. I found that in busy stores I would shorten it to “bless PPHH” and smile at the person.
People reacted to me by smiling back, by saying, “Have a great day,” etc. Even when I sometimes would forget to bless someone, my smile remained and people were greeting me and engaging positively with me. I was a teacher and as my class was drifting in I would smile at each student and silently bless them and my classroom dynamic shifted dramatically. I have little evidence that my silent blessing helped strangers. What I do know is it was harmless and it sent out positive energy, which can only be helpful to them, and was surely helpful to me.
As a writer and a poet, I had written poems about the abuse I endured or that of friends’ abuse. It was my way to get my story told and then let it go. When I decided to publish the poems, I felt very vulnerable and I felt a lot of the shame and self-recrimination for choices I had made to be in relationships or in jobs where the abuse thrived.
Do a Kindness Practice for 30 or more days
To let go of these emotions and the fear, I chose to be more systematic with my kindness practice and do at least three acts of kindness every day and then spend five minutes or so at night journaling about it.
Be kind in thought
I continued giving the silent blessing to all I encountered. Also, I asked myself each day how I was kind to me, what I did each day to take care of me. I added positive songs to my daily routine. I spent time scouring all the songs out there and came up with more than 70 uplifting, and inspiring songs (see the playlist on sandrajeffs.com) and in the morning as I was brushing my teeth and getting ready, I played 2-3 songs. I also had them on a CD in my car as I drove to work or wherever I was going. This set a positive tone for my day.
I added dance to my daily routine. For 15 minutes a day I turn on high energy dance music and dance around my living room. This way I get my cardio and I feel great. You can go to the gym, take a walk, or any other exercise. I also chose to eliminate one unhealthy food choice from my diet and stick with it, slowly building to two, and so on.
Additionally, I chose to work on my judgmental thinking. In the car, if someone cut in front of me without signaling, instead of bleating out expletives and thinking the person was a jerk,. I told myself, “WOW! That was a bit close/scary. I hope the person stays safe out here on the road.” This way I diffuse my fear from going to anger and I express compassion for the driver. I found ways to do similar things for judgments about other people’s weight, attitude, behavior, whatever.
Be kind in word
I wanted to be kind in thought, word, and deed. Verbal abuse has been prevalent in my history so it is something I have personally avoided. As a result, I had found it difficult to give negative feedback to others, fearing that it would be abusive. I stifled my voice, not knowing how to use it correctly. Years ago I read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. They are: 1) “Be impeccable with your word,” 2) “Don't take anything personally,” 3) “Don't make assumptions,” and 4) “Always do your best.” I set out to learn to “be impeccable with my word,” to give feedback with honesty and compassion and found it was easier than I had dreamed. Compassion, which is wise kindness, humbles me and allows me to do what is best at all times.
The second agreement – “Don’t take anything personally” – states that whatever someone says or does comes as a result of his or her NEED to do or say it. We may in fact benefit from hearing or experiencing it, but, it is ultimately about the other person. We can force people to do or say something against their will but in that case, it is apparent that it is not what they want. Therefore, when someone says or does something “for your own good” it is always something they need to say or do (for their own good, not ours). As a highly sensitive person, I am an empath, I took things personally. Understanding this point allowed me to be more objective, to say with a smile something like, “Thanks for your perspective, I’ll take it under consideration.” I really do consider what they have said to me and decide if I need to change anything as a result. My life has been greatly enriched. I have also applied this to the first agreement to “be impeccable with my word” knowing that when I speak, it is my need to speak and allowing others to choose what to do with the information I am imparting. Using compassion helps me to speak impeccably, kindly and, many times, I realize I have no need to speak at all.
Be kind in deed
There are so many ways to be kind in our actions towards others. We can buy a Subway foot long sandwich and give a half to two homeless people. We can buy mega-packs of energy bars at the big-box stores and a giant bag of dog food—pack small baggies with 2-3 energy bars and small baggies with dog food and keep them in our car. When we see a homeless person on the street corner, hand him or her a bag of energy bars. If the person has a dog, give a baggie of dogfood. Likewise, buy 25 tube socks, gloves, rain ponchos, toothpaste, toothbrushes and keep them in a big bag in the car. Give things out to homeless people. Give a donation to organizations helping the abused heal, helping the handicapped, helping animals. On my website (sandrajeffs.com) I have a list of 30 ideas for ways to be kind. You can also go to this website (https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas) to get an extensive list of ideas.
A story of one man’s kindness
A man drove around waving and smiling at people on the street. His finance asked him if he knew all these people he was waving at. He replied that he didn’t but he smiled and waved at them because he had read that many people who had tried and failed to commit suicide said that if just one person had smiled or waved at them, maybe they wouldn’t have tried to harm themselves. So he said, “I’m trying to save a life today.”
This is an action that costs us nothing to do and maybe it will save another person’s life. Give it a go. What if parents started a Kindness Practice with their entire family. Children are included in doing 5 acts of kindness each day and the family debriefs each night around the dinner table? What kind of a difference would it make? We could form a group of friends doing a Kindness Practice, a group of co-workers, a company.
Another story of a community’s kindness
“In this African tribe, when someone does something wrong, they take the person to the center of the village where the tribe surrounds him and for 2 days say all the good he has done. The tribe believes each person is good but sometimes people make mistakes, which are really a cry for help. They unite to reconnect him with his good nature.”https://www.instagram.com/p/BAWBumSlPTr/
What if we began to do this here? What if parents did this with their children—called the grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. and reminded the child of their basic good nature?
What if preschools used this to correct behavior problems, if elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools used it.
Would rapists, murderers, molesters be eliminated from society? What would happen to the overcrowded jails if people actualized their own goodness? Would we need to find different jobs for the corrections officers in prisons and jails, for police people? Would companies providing security need to find new business models?
I’d say, “Please, God, make it so,” but I think God has always wanted this and is waiting for US to make it happen.
If you think that you are only one person and what you do won’t make a difference, think again. Gandhi was one person who made a huge difference, so was Nelson Mandela, so was Sister Theresa, so was Jesus and so was Buddha. You are one person in seven billion. One person can make a difference to one other person spreading to two more and exponentially spreading to everyone. It has to begin with each person making a choice to be kind in every way possible. Even if it is difficult to believe it will make a difference in the world --
believe it will make a difference in you. Do it for you.
My book: Finding Home: Healing from Abuse is available at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Finding+Home%3A+Healing+from+Abuse OR SandraJeffs.com