The other night I had a dream worthy of some Freudian analysis. A figure outside myself but clearly a part of my psyche asked me a question: Why be kind?
Why be kind when the world is full of cruelty? Why be kind when people can be so awful?
I’ve heard from more than a few women, upon expressing their desire not to see me anymore, that I’m a nice guy. I pride myself on treating people well regardless of the situation. We’re all suffering in our own way and the odds are often against us; a little compassion goes a long way.
But mean people take advantage of nice people. Sensitive men are often seen as effeminate, over-civilized mama’s boys. It’s not easy being kind. Sometimes I wish for a harder shell.
A dream full of questions left me with a partial answer. Why be kind? Because when you’re kind to people you’re showing yourself compassion. You’re being kind to you.
But my illness, hell-bent on keeping me down, challenges this axiom. In my darkest moments I abandon myself on the precipice of disaster. Life sucks and I turn the vacuum on full blast. I’m cruel to myself, curse my imperfections, swear off hope for a lifetime of dread.
I forget that I can’t show kindness to others without first caring for me. The world is tough enough. I can’t be strong for you if I’m too busying beating myself up. The question isn’t why be kind but how can we learn to forgive ourselves.