Recently I had lunch with my friends Barry and Beth (not real names) who are married. We were having a lovely conversation ranging from every day affairs to deeper spiritual concepts.
During our conversation, Barry took his wife’s hand and gave her a loving smile and then turned to me and said, “You know Linda, at this stage of my life, the one thing I am absolutely sure of is there is nothing more important than being genuinely kind to people. All people. Even during difficult moments, as hard as that can be sometimes.”
The kindness glitch!
About 10 minutes later his cell phone rings. Looking at it he says, “I’m so sorry, it’s our accountant and he has information we’ve been waiting for.”
What transpired next was remarkable considering our overall conversation and what he had said about kindness shortly before. It was if the Universe were putting his words to the test!
As Barry listened on the phone I could see the anger building up inside of him. What came out of his mouth next had me desperately wanting to leave the table as Beth looked at me with apologetic eyes.
I don’t know what the accountant was saying but Barry’s words about kindness went out the window in an instant.
Once he was off the phone he sat there completely stunned. He looked like someone had just punched him in the stomach.
A minute or so of silence went by and then Barry, in the most sincere voice, said, “So much for kindness. I’m truly sorry for my behavior. It was wrong and I’ll need to apologize to Steve (the accountant) about this. The information just completely blindsided me.”
Beth gave him a hug and told him she understood.
So did I.
Situations like this happen to the best of us. We often talk about treating people with kindness. And, when it comes to a circumstance like what Barry experienced, suddenly our kindness can be full of glitches. As well as becoming compartmentalized.
When something doesn’t go the way we want it to, we can lose sight and start behaving in ways that are less than gracious. Less than kind.
When someone says something that triggers us, all bets are off.
The idea of kindness is lovely, but when we only act on it when it fits inside our picture frame then it’s a wake up moment for us. It’s an opportunity to recognize our ego has reared itself, yet again, to maintain its control over our desire for spiritual growth. In this case, Barry’s desire to be kind even during difficult times.
Being kind in the midst of a strained situation is not a sign of weakness, even though your ego would like you to think differently. In fact, it takes great strength and resolve to stay centered during a difficult experience. Not needing it to be something other than what it is.
Barry’s immediate recognition and admission of his behavior takes self-awareness and courage. There’s nothing for him to be ashamed of although his ego would tell him otherwise.
Life will present another opportunity to do it differently next time, as it always does. For Barry, remembering this experience gives him a better chance at slamming the door on his ego before it enters the room without an invitation.