Grace is love or kindness extended toward others not because they have asked for it or because they deserve it, but because we wish for them to have it. Grace is a kindness that is independent of the recipients’ worthiness of it. By their very nature kind people are kind to others because of who they are, and this is independent of the recipients perceived ‘worthiness.’ I say this because it is very easy to be kind toward others when they are contrite or in need. What is not so easy is to be kind toward those who are upsetting us – rude drivers, angry customers, patients demanding controlled medications, or others who are behaving in entitled, angry, or narcissistic ways. These people often trigger our own anger and defensiveness, and we may then wish to lash out at them. A desire to react out of anger or defensiveness is normal – but kind people strive to be kind especially when we are dealing with upset or entitled people.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Almost all of us can easily be kind to a friend or a child – but it takes much effort to be kind towards someone who is agitated, angry or rude. Such kindness is a form of Grace we extend to the upset and the hurting. We can still be kind and professional even while placing healthy boundaries on others. As psychologist Dr. Lee Underwood likes to say “You have to teach others how to respond to you.” Kind people do not react to anger or disrespect – we merely continue to be kind, professional, and to use healthy boundaries. Doing so allows us to not become upset and allows us to dismiss the other parties behavior with grace and kindness while addressing their concern out of empathy and compassion. Truth be told, we never really know what others are going through that is contributing to them behaving so badly. The angry person could be dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder from a rape two years ago, had a death in the family, or were unintentionally rude because they are wandering around in a depressed fog and just not thinking. These people would benefit tremendously by extending kindness and grace toward them. Yes — there are some rude, entitled people out there who drive on the shoulder passing backed up cars only to then cut in at the front of the line — I really dislike those people too. It is natural for people to feel angry when the anger seems justified. Yet self-righteous anger is a dangerous trap to fall into because it allows one to see themselves as a victim – and it feels so good sometimes to blame others and to stew in self-righteousness.
“But I’ve been wronged!!” we scream. Yes, you have been wronged in your life. I’m so very sorry, but who does holding onto all that anger and hate harm? The perpetrator – or you? Who suffers from holding onto all that anger? You do, and the others you interact with suffer when you are irritable and angry. You owe it to yourself to forgive those who have hurt you – not for their sake but for your own, so you can find peace again. Forgiveness and grace towards them are acts of kindness – both towards them and towards you. If you cannot forgive them, speak with your religious leader or see a psychologist. It is imperative that we rid ourselves of every trace of self-righteous anger. It is the most damaging form of anger and will poison every aspect of our life if we hold onto it.
Even after you are able to forgive those who caused you harm, you will still find yourself dealing with people who are demanding and entitled or who are purposely rude. But if you are only kind to people who are kind to you back, what credit to you is that? Are you truly a kind and forgiving person then? I would think not. Kind people, by definition, do kind things. Even when others do not reciprocate the kindness and even if others do not seem deserving of such kindness. We can’t change society and make it kinder and less violent by only being kind when it feels good or only if we deem the other party ‘worthy’ of kindness. We must extend grace and kindness to everyone. Kindness is our mission and our duty. If enough of us practice kindness at all times, our society would reach at some point a critical mass of kindness that would radically alter our world. And why not, we changed deeply ingrained behavior before with both smoking and with drunk driving. We can do it again.
So be kind always – even if you think others do not deserve it.