The great truth is that kindness, love, and even peace begin in the home. I’m amazed at how many men will be “professional” at work with their colleagues and will extend common courtesies to strangers on the street, only to then go home and neglect or mistreat their own family members. Sometimes this abuse “only” takes the form of taking their loved one’s for granted, but often it involves being overly critical or hurtful to members of our own family. Some men will be kind to strangers on the way home only to say or do unkind things to the people who are closest to them – their spouse or children! Although this makes no sense I often find this to be true.
No one ever said human behavior was logical.
Isn’t it ironic that oftentimes the people it is hardest to be kind to are the people in our own home – the very people we love most? This is why Mother Teresa says that world peace begins by going home and loving our own family. For many people it is sometimes easier to be kinder to strangers than to the people we live with and know most intimately – but our lack of kindness to our own families will in the end contribute more to an unstable and unkind world than any other factor. Love, peace and kindness begin when practiced in the home every day.
Our own family members must also contend with one another’s expectations and these are not always fair or kind. Sometimes we think we have a family member’s best interest in mind when we act or place demands on them. In reality though, expecting others to live or behave as we believe they should – even if we think we know best – is unkind and often pushes the family member away or results in unnecessary drama. This type of controlling behavior – although it often has good intentions – sets up families for chaos. This is why our love for one another must be unconditional – our love is not based on what others do, but on who they are – family. This is the kind thing to do. This does not mean we must accept bad behavior from loved ones – but that we react and speak in grace and love rather than out of hurt or anger. And of course if a family member is abusing us and refuses to change, we must always take steps to take care of ourselves and our kids – kindness is never an excuse to be a doormat or to accept abuse from others. Nor is abuse from others an excuse for us to be abusive or unkind in return. We can respond to mistreatment from others appropriately but also with kindness and grace. This is hard to do and takes much practice, but by acting in grace and kindness we can be an example to others of good behavior and healthy boundaries. At the same time we are showing kindness to ourselves by refusing to accept abuse or mistreatment. As noted earlier on this blog, we must take care of ourselves and of our own basic needs before we can be of maximum service to others.
How can you practice greater kindness and grace to those closest to you?