Kindness, cruelty and nothing in between.
Updated: Apr 2
I started 2019 hopeful and determined. Now, twelve messy months later, my life is unrecognisable. Maybe there was something in the air, or the water, but it seems that 2019 was a bit of a shit storm for many. The memes say so, therefore it must be true. Either way, the universe has some explaining to do.
Christmas Day 2018, I was on my own for the first time in years; my family and friends trying to adopt me so that I wouldn’t spend the day alone. Instead I spent it at a homeless shelter serving Christmas dinners to people who truly know the meaning of alone.
By January, my resilience was replenished. I was ready for what I knew would be a challenging time ahead. I started blogging about my experiences, keen to share my plights with the world to find meaning and to shine a light for others in similar situations. I was excited by the prospects of change. Bring it! I thought to myself, ever prepared for battle.
What a fucking onslaught. Everything I never imagined people could be capable of happened in 2019. Was I witnessing the early signs of a zombie apocalypse? Did Brexit turn everyone mad? People everywhere behaving utterly mindlessly; kindness, empathy and patience replaced with ego, greed and judgement. Plus, my chickens got “foxed”. That was a low moment.
I watched friends suffer, each wrestling with their own burdens. I saw things on the news that I still can't rationalise today. I parted with more people in my life in one twelve month period than in all my years combined. I repeatedly saw the ugliest side to human nature and other times, the best. And I said goodbye to my home and my hometown, only to finish the year with the one thing I'd fought so hard to avoid; more uncertainty.
As Christmas arrives, one question has been stuck on my mind; what the hell, Universe? And then I realised, chatting to my sister, hearing her views on the year's events... the onslaught of 2019 isn't really an onslaught at all. If you take the right perspective, it's actually a cleanse.
For me, for many, and even for the world, 2019 has been about longterm problems coming to an end. People, situations, obscurities and uncertainties that have caused hurt for far too long are over. The cleansing process has been brutal, but no matter what happens in 2020, we start with a lighter load.
This means healing can begin. Forgiveness, acceptance, patience, empathy, understanding, kindness and wisdom; all the good stuff that form the basis of our resilience. Entering a new year, and a new decade, empowered by these tools, bodes for a very positive outlook.
This is the gift of perspective. 2019 is nearly over and all that's important is what we do next. What path do we choose with our fresh wounds still stinging? I think this is a much simpler question than it sounds.
People get so easily worked up over nothing. We can occupy an awful lot of time fighting to be right, to feel appeased emotionally, financially, and politically. And it's often in these moments, when we're fighting to be right, that we get caught up in our own justifications of some bloody awful behaviour.
When we're faced with conflict on any scale, from petty quibbles to outright war, humans are terribly guilty of forging our own personal narratives to justify our actions. Like a bad game of chess, moves become erratic and self-serving, fuelled by the wrong objectives so that the obvious right path is muddied.
Because actually, there is only ever two clear paths in life; there is kindness, there is cruelty, and there is nothing in between worth worrying about. We know when we're being kind and when others are being kind to us. We feel it. Kindness warms the bones. It's a powerful human connection that can build bridges and change the course of a day, a life even.
In the same way, we know when we're being cruel and when others are being cruel to us. Cruelty chills the bones. Even if we try to spin that personal narrative to deny it to ourselves, acts of cruelty cannot be denied forever, not internally - where it counts.
And these are the only two paths that really matter. What is the kindest thing to do here should be our governing question when faced with conflict. Whether that's kindness to yourself, to someone else, or to the world, consciously choosing kindness should be our guiding light during adversity, as should avoiding cruelty.
All the other bits in between are not worth losing sleep over or getting riled up over. If someone hurts you, decide if they were deliberately being cruel. If the answer is yes, the kindest thing you can do for yourself is forgive them for their behaviour and consider removing them from your life for however long you deem necessary. If the answer is no, then forgive them and work towards a solution that suits you both.
Any problems that can't be resolved by the kindness and cruelty measures are just not that important. They're the type of problems that may matter in other ways, such as career choices, financial issues and so forth, and I'm not saying don't give them any brain-time, but be mindful of where you invest your energy.
I'm not a big fan of the mantra "be kind to yourself" as I feel some people use it as an excuse to justify shitty behaviour. But I do believe that consciously measuring kindness and cruelty in ourselves and in others, and using these measures to steer our decision making, keeps us in a healthier and happier state of being.
This is pretty much what A Christmas Carol teaches us; a story that has been loved for generations purely because of its underlining messages of kindness over cruelty. It feels to me like the universe has dished up a big fat reminder of this. So as we start 2020 and a whole new decade, how about we let go of the ghosts of Christmas past and choose to be the most actively kind versions of ourselves yet? That's my Christmas gift to myself and to those I love. I did also buy presents, honestly.