It was the best of — wait, wrong story! Where was I? Ah, yes. Posting a rambling musing about kindness when it’s the hardest to give. Last week I had two meetings at work. Well, I had a zillion meetings, but two stuck out at me on a personal level.
Meeting One: Wherein, a team of very kind, very personable people for whom I produce a monthly report asked me to do a colossal overhaul of the code at the eleventh hour, derailing my “real” work and causing a late night and early morning the next day. But they were friendly, and grateful, and understanding. In Meeting One, I honestly couldn’t even be miffed about the extra last minute work. We chatted about our Thanksgivings and laughed about how we all ate too much pumpkin pie over the holiday, and they were so gosh darn grateful and kind that the stress and annoyance completely evaporated. By the end of it I was thanking them for being so lovely to work with!
Meeting Two: Wherein, a veritable workplace bully interrupted my presentation countless times to embarrass me in front of loads of people and tell me my presentation sucked (during the presentation, mind you). Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate substantive, professionally delivered criticisms. But rudely interrupting to yell out that you totally disagree, calling me by the wrong name (again and again, despite correction), and actively trying to put me down in an aggressive manner are not cool in my book.
Here’s basically how it went:
Me: “Moving on to slide 12, you can see that–”
Bully: “CHARLENE, WHAT ABOUT XYZ NUMBERS. SHOULDN’T THOSE BE IN HERE SOMEWHERE? I MEAN HOW COULD YOU DO A PRESENTATION WITHOUT XYZ NUMBERS?!”
Me: “If you flip back to slide 3, they are in the executive summary slide.”
Bully: “OH. WELL. UH. UM. IT WASN’T CLEAR. I SOMEHOW MISSED THAT. YOU REALLY SHOULD PUT XYZ NUMBERS LATER IN THE DECK TOO. I MEAN, XYZ NUMBERS ARE REALLY IMPORTANT. AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO DIDN’T SEE THEM ON SLIDE 3?”
Bully’s cronies: “Um yeah, I guess I missed that too…”
Bully: “SEE?!? I’M JUST GOING TO BE BLUNT HERE, I COMPLETELY DISAGREE WITH EVERYTHING YOU’RE SAYING. WHY IS THIS THE FIRST WE’RE HEARING ABOUT THIS?!”
Me: “Actually sir you and I spoke about it over two months ago.”
Bully: “OH. WELL I STILL TOTALLY DISAGREE WITH YOUR FINDINGS.”
Me: “I appreciate your questions and feedback, but my job is to present findings that are statistically significant. And my name is Charlotte, by the way.”
Was I kind to Mr Bully that day? Ehh, I tried my hardest, but I still walked away from that meeting upset and indignant.
How dare he be so mean in front of so many people! Did he not care how embarrassing or hurtful it was? This guy doesn’t deserve my kindness!
That last thought, that’s where I was wrong. His behavior certainly didn’t merit kindness in return, but he is a human being just like you and me, and so I believe that makes him deserve kindness just as much as the nice folks who created so much extra work for me in Meeting One.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how hard it is to show kindness to those whose behavior least “deserves” it. It was nice that I was so happy to oblige the kind folks of Meeting One, but I really want to focus more on those inevitable situations in life where someone is acting like a Grinch or a Scrooge or a bully and doesn’t seem to deserve kindness in return.
For me at least, it’s hardest to show love in situations where I feel wronged or attacked or taken advantage of or unfairly judged. And I know it is oh so cliché to say, but an eye for an eye really does leave the whole world blind. I mean, if everyone always treated everyone else like they “deserved” in that moment, I think we’d all be pretty miserable and mean.
And yeah it sounds so obvious typed out like that. Yeah, yeah, the golden rule and all that. But in the heat of the moment, when an adversarial colleague is attacking your professional integrity, or when that mean girl at school is making fun of your red hair, or when there’s an untrue rumor spreading like wildfire about you, it is so hard to fight the urge for complete justice.
And I think to a certain degree, in certain situations, a level of justice can be needed. After all, it’s not healthy to be a doormat. But finding that fine line between standing up for yourself and practicing undeserved kindness to a bully can be so dang hard.
I guess all of this is to say that those two meetings really got me thinking about how I need to work on showing extra kindness to those in my life whose behavior deserves it least. Because, not only will showing them kindness possibly bring them out of whatever dark hole they’re in, but I’ve found time and again that holding onto indignation only hurts me in the end. So as a favor to myself I ought to just let it go (within reason, of course) and be kind to the bullies of the world.