“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” – Albert Schweitzer
Just a Spoonful of Kindness Makes the Angry Girl Calm Down
Several weeks ago, Eric and I were driving to Roanoke to celebrate Memorial Day when suddenly I found myself overcome by tears. It had only been three weeks since we said goodbye to Miss Betty and suddenly overwhelming grief hit me out of nowhere.
Crying is not abnormal for me; and, though my tears do not make Eric uncomfortable, he is uncomfortable with me sobbing whilst flying down the highway. Over the years, I have tried in vain to explain to him that I am a professional, crying driver. In those tearful moments, I feel completely in control of myself and my vehicle; but, alas, he says he does not feel safe riding with me when I weep on the open road. ~smile~
As the tears began to flow that morning, I heard this all too familiar phrase, “If you are going to cry, pull over. It is not safe.”
In man-speak, Eric said, “If you are going to cry, pull over. It is not safe.”
In woman-speak, I inferred, “It does not matter that you are hurting right now. Your tears are annoying me and making me feel unsafe. I am not concerned with the contents of your heart. All I care about is feeling safe. Pull over!”
I did not pull over right away. I was shocked, hurt, and no longer crying. My grief was quickly pushed aside by anger.
Needless to say, a conflict erupted between us and the drive ended up being tense and silent – other than the screaming going on inside my head. After we processed our thoughts and emotions for a while, we discussed the incident until we both felt heard. In short, Eric felt disrespected when I did not honor his directive, as he believed I was rebelliously putting us in harm’s way. (Ok, that is understandable.)
After I thought the incident through, it occurred to me that his request for me to pull over was not the problem. So what if he does not believe in my cry-driving skills? If he feels unsafe, I should respect his wishes. What bothered me was his abrupt approach. Whatever the reason, I was crying; and, instead of checking on my heart, he immediately demanded my departure from the roadway. At the root of it all, I perceived his delivery as unkind. Though not maliciously, he left me marinating in my own pain without so much as an, “Are you okay?”
As we talked, explained, and listened our way through our conflict, it finally came down to two simple principles: 1. Eric wants me to respect his requests and 2. I am desperate for lovingkindness. Once he realized my actions were rooted in hurt and not rebellion, I think he understood me better. When I understood that he was not trying to be unkind, but was truly concerned for our safety, I felt less anger towards him.
I have always known women liked kindness, but that Memorial Day moment magnified this truth for me a hundred times – we crave it. All that needed to change about the entire scenario was the addition of one sweet statement such as, “Sweetie, I am sorry you are upset. Please pull over and we will talk about it.” A drop of “I care” would have made that drive to Roanoke a completely different experience.
Okay, Okay, I Am Not Perfect Either…
But, before I lay all the blame at Eric’s door, I must back up a few years and tell on myself. Who knows what I was angry about, but I remember losing my temper on Eric one evening and ending my tirade with this question and demand: “What do you want from me?!?! Make me a list!!!!” When I returned to the scene, I noticed a note on my pillow with one lonely word: “gentleness.”
The world stood still for a moment as I realized how desperately my husband needed me to be sweet. Whether we want to take on the responsibility or not, ladies, we have the power to change the climate and emotional aroma of a home. The quote, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is not completely off the mark. When the lady of the home is kind, generous, and loving, the family sighs contentedly; but, if she runs around the house yelling, throwing food around the kitchen, and mumbling to herself with a big scowl on her face, the natives retreat until the storm passes.
Kindness is Free
Sometimes the best things in life really are free. It does not cost us anything (besides our pride) to be kind. We lift people’s spirits with our warmth. We diffuse negative emotions with kindness. God’s Word says that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
It does not take long to determine if a couple’s relationship is saturated with kindness. When we receive kindness consistently, it shows on our faces and in our actions. A nourished heart shows in a person’s countenance. It warms my heart to be around older couples who still hold hands, make each other laugh, and appear to be perfectly content. I picture them sitting at home, serving each other and loving on one another. There is nothing sweeter than an elderly man doting on his elderly wife.
In addition to creating an honesty-only policy in your relationship, create a culture of kindness between you and your future spouse. Take steps to become the kind of couple you dream of being in your old age. Kindness takes the sting out of sad moments; it neutralizes the bitterness of conflict; it makes coming home a pleasure.
You will have thousands of opportunities to choose between angry or kind responses. When I choose kindness, it saves our entire evening from ruin. When I choose anger, I always end up wishing I had chosen kindness!
Have you and your sweetheart created a culture of kindness in your relationship?