What I refer to as “The Kindness Experiment”, is really just a little game I invented to try to forgive people in my life that annoy me or that I have a lot of resentment against. The people I use it on vary from exes to rivals, and sometimes it’s even people that I’m theoretically close to, like my family, friends and co-workers.
The important thing to keep in mind about our relationships with other people, is that although we have no say over their actions and behavior, we alone control our own.
It’s so easy to point fingers at other people and blame them for how we feel. We all do it. If they didn’t go and betray us, we probably wouldn’t hate them. If they would just apologize, maybe we’d consider forgiving them. If they weren’t so annoying, maybe we wouldn’t want to punch them in the face every time we saw them. Just saying.
Let’s relate this to a real-life situation. Say you have a super-negative coworker, who incessantly complains, bad-mouths everyone in the office, and instigates unnecessary drama and conflict. You dread seeing them approach your desk because you can already anticipate the mental drain they inevitably leave in their wake. They start talking and the familiar feelings of irritation flare up with almost every word they say. You stay noncommittal, but polite, barely nodding and giving one-word answers. When they’re finally gone, you’re relieved, but left with an unpleasant aftertaste that lingers long after the conversation has ended.
Later, you rehash the entire conversation with a different coworker, letting them know just how much you can’t stand this person and their negativity. What you may or may not realize is that in doing this, you’re actually perpetuating the cycle, spreading more negative energy, and will probably end up feeling even worse as a result.
It’s crazy because it’s almost like we then get infected with their negative energy, and as a result literally become the thing we hated in the first place. Now we’re the ones walking around complaining and annoying everyone.
The above example is of a more superficial nature, but the truth is, a lot of us have much deeper resentments and pain inside of us that have formed as a direct result of the treatment we’ve received at the hands of others, and they continue to fester and torture us on a regular basis. The worse the treatment, the worse you probably feel about it, and the more you’re probably spreading it around, sometimes without even realizing it.
I’m going to sidebar for a minute and give you an example from my personal life, and how I was able to finally release it.
So for my entire life, I’ve had only one living grandmother. And let’s just say she’s not very nice. Actually that’s quite an understatement, because the way she has treated me and my sister is pretty appalling. She’s super close to my dad, and has always been weirdly jealous of our relationship with him (which I don’t really get because our relationship with him has always been inconsistent at best).
She wasn’t exactly mean to our faces when we were younger, but she would never call us, and she rarely allowed us to come over, and because my dad lived with her (and still does), it ended up having a huge, negative impact on our relationship with him, because it severely limited the amount of time we could see him, which in turn, caused us to resent, and even hate her later on.
Once we were teenagers, her behavior radically changed. We got to know a different side of her that was really confusing and hurtful to us.
Like the time we went to her 80th birthday, and when she opened our card she just sort of made a face and tossed it to the side after seeing who it was from, after everyone at the party witnessed her opening like 30 cards before ours and effusively thanking and hugging the givers.
Or how about the time I heard her loud and clear from across the room of my aunt’s bridal shower telling some random lady “that one’s rotten”, only to look up and see her pointing at me in front of about 30 of my aunt’s friends that I’d never met before.
Another little gem was the time she was so enraged that we stopped by on Christmas to surprise my dad, that she immediately started fighting with us and shouted to us that we were the reason my dad was sick (he has Alzheimers), which made him cry, which literally broke my heart because he’s already so vulnerable and confused.
Those are a few examples, but I could go on all night.
I promise this isn’t being presented in the spirit of “poor me, my grandma was mean to me”, and I’m definitely not trying to make you feel sorry for me. The point of these stories is to illustrate that I do know a lot about pain and hating people, and have truly needed to dig so deep to find a way to even think about overcoming the resentment I’ve felt towards this woman.
It literally became my mission for so many years to find a way to forgive this lady, and I’ll tell you why. It goes hand-in-hand with what I was saying earlier, how we perpetuate the cycle of negativity and end up adopting similar emotions within ourselves. At some point that lightbulb dinged for me, and it literally sickened me that a piece of her hateful energy was permanantly residing in my heart and mind, making me think ugly thoughts and feel mean, nasty emotions that were not compatible at all with my true nature.
So, I got to work.
I started looking up “How to forgive someone” online, and read all the articles and did a lot of the recommended exercises. I journaled about my feelings. I started listening to guided meditations on forgiveness. I read a book on Buddhism and tried to imagine her as a “small, helpless child”. I wrote 5-page letters to her and then burned them.
I did all this, and I still fucking hated this bitch. So annoying.
What ended up finally turning things around was that I was able to shift my entire perspective on the whole thing.
It’s funny because I wasn’t even looking for ways to forgive people or anything like that, I just happened to stumble upon a random video on YouTube one day.
The video was about the concept of “soul contracts”, which are basically agreements you make with certain people before you get here, that they’re going to be in your life and not treat you so great, so that your soul can experience certain painful things it needs to experience in order for it to grow. The video went on to say that a lot of the time, the people that have treated you the worst, actually love you the most, on a spiritual level, because they’re willing to be the one to test you and hurt you, when deep down it’s actually hard for them to do.
I just remember being blown away by that video, and thinking like that has to be it. I felt like there was finally some clarity, a reason behind everything. No one could really be that mean without some sort of purpose behind it all. It wasn’t just because life isn’t fair.
It kind of restored my faith in humanity again.
And I ended up releasing all that hurt and resentment in one fell swoop. I literally let it go and wasn’t even trying to. In one instant, my energy completely transformed.
It was kind of like the first time that I saw myself in the mirror, after getting my braces off and switching from glasses to contacts. In one second my entire energy towards myself shifted. I went from believing I was forever going to be this ugly, awkward, weird kid to seeing this pretty teenage girl in the mirror. I never expected that to happen to me, and certainly not at the optometrists’s office, but there I was. I remember thinking “I’m pretty… how… did this happen?” I had already accepted the fact that I was born to be ugly, and I truly didn’t think liking the way I looked was going to ever be in the cards for me.
The point is, if you’re reading this, that means that you gave enough of a fuck to click on an article about being kind, so it follows that you’re probably a kind-hearted person yourself, and that you care about being kind to others as well, so it sucks that people didn’t see your value and fucked you over and used you, and forgot about you, or whatever else they did, but it’s 100% up to you what you do from here on out.
Their draining and parasitic energies do not have to have any place in your heart and mind anymore if you don’t want them to. You literally have the power to choose everything about your life, including the way you feel about whoever you’re thinking about right now. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, I promise that you do. We all have the power to feel any way we want to, and to give ourselves all the love, support, and understanding that we deserved, but didn’t receive.
When I think about all the different ways I’ve been hurt by people, the times I was left out, and made fun of, and looked down upon, and betrayed, and told there was something wrong with being the way I was, told that I was too sensitive, told that my feelings didn’t have merit, it makes me feel tired.
But then I remember all the times I had to play through the pain, and how it strengthened me and taught me grace and composure. I remember every time I cried alone in my room, how I discovered different ways to soothe myself through all different kinds of loneliness and heartache. I remember how I learned to pick myself up time, after time, after time, even when it seemed like life was just continually punching me down, and every time I’d get back up and get my bearings again, I’d get dealt another one, that was somehow even worse than the last one.
All these things painfully stretched and grew me in ways I didn’t necessarily want to grow, taught me lessons I would have been just as fine not learning, but literally shaped me into a person I am so proud to be now. And the best part is, all this love and acceptance and self-worth I’ve cultivated within myself, is not dependent in any way, shape or form on one single other person. It comes from within, and it can never be taken from me.
So if it helps you, think about all the ways you’ve grown, all the lessons you’ve learned, and all the times you had to figure out how to survive and be strong all on your own. Think about them and be grateful for them. Change your perspective. Forgiveness will follow. Trust me.