“Kindness is a gift everyone can afford to give.”Unknown
Today at the gym, an older lady who was passing by me on the track made a hurtful comment. She saw my two girls running on the track with me and told me in a stern tone, “They shouldn’t be here!!” If I had been feeling stronger, it probably wouldn’t have hurt so much. I could have just shrugged it off. This was a family rec center, after all. Kids are allowed on the track. But my three-year-old wasn’t staying in one lane—she was zig-zagging back and forth. She was getting in the way. Maybe that lady was right—my little girl might be too little to run on the track! But like all parents learn, you can’t control your children’s behavior. You can teach them and love them and enforce consequences, but they make their own choices! My daughter wouldn’t come back when I called her. She has boundless energy and she can outrun her mama! I was just trying to catch up!
That experience made me reflect on a few things that I want to share today. What we say matters. We can choose to spread love and kindness or to spread negativity and criticism. You never know what people are going through. Do you ever stop and ask yourself if your words will be helpful or hurtful? Do they convey love or judgment? Once those words leave your lips, you create an impact. You either send out positive or negative energy into the world. What that woman may have thought was simply “constructive criticism”, or a needed correction, cut me like a knife.
Here’s what that stranger didn’t know about me…
She didn’t know that I haven’t been able to go to the rec center and get in my morning workout for weeks. She didn’t know that I was so proud of myself for even being there today. She didn’t know that today was the last day before our family membership expires. I’ve been too sick to come and I’ve missed it so much!!
She also didn’t know that I am just coming out of a difficult and debilitating manic/depressive episode. She didn’t know that my anxiety has been at an all-time high. She didn’t know that just venturing out in public takes a lot of courage right now. She didn’t know that every day I am fighting back the negative voices in my head that tell me “You are a bad mom!”. She didn’t know that I am trying to recover and to regain a sense of self-worth after being a checked-out, knocked down, sick and depressed mom. She didn’t know how much those words hurt.
Yesterday I was finally able to get behind the wheel again and drive my son to school. It was a big deal! I haven’t been able to drive my kids to school for the past two weeks! The only way they are able to get to and from school right now is because my mother-in-law is here helping. She drops them off and picks them off when I can’t do it on my own.
Why did I stop driving? Honestly—because school pick-up became too much for my anxiety. Yes, I’m being completely real! I was already struggling so much inside and that environment felt threatening to me. All of the other parents, trying to find a spot to park along the curb, impatiently honking their horns when you get in their way, literally made me start having panic attacks. It was too much!!
If you have never dealt with anxiety or had a panic attack, you may think I am being dramatic or that I’m a weakling. Who flips out just because someone honks their horn?! Get over it! You may think I need to toughen up or grow up or stop being so sensitive. You may think I need tougher skin. But if you have dealt with anxiety, you understand. I had to avoid that situation until my anxiety levels lowered and became manageable again.
Mental illness is an invisible illness. I bear no physical scars or outward signs of my internal suffering. You can’t see emotional wounds. They are hidden deep. You don’t know that they are still open and raw. You can’t see how fragile and vulnerable I still feel, even though I am getting stronger and feeling more like myself every day. I am up and doing things now, but I am still healing and regaining my strength. Your words can be kind, helpful, and encouraging. They can also be hurtful.
Please, let’s choose to be kind! Let’s choose to spread love. Let’s choose to have empathy toward everyone we meet and give them the benefit of the doubt. You don’t know their story. You don’t know their struggle! I may not be able to control my environment or other people’s behavior toward me. But I can try to make the world a better place. I can choose to be kind. I can withhold judgment and speak words that convey love.
I can choose to be kind, even when others hurt me. I won’t pass on the negativity or judgment. And this is my super-power! Because of my own personal suffering, I learned empathy. Because I have doubted my own mothering skills, I don’t pass judgment on other moms whose kids are acting out.
I’m not saying that I am a better person than anyone else. I’m no saint and I’m definitely not perfect. I simply believe that we are all capable of being kind and showing love, no matter what kind of day we are having. I’ve just been through a lot and I have learned that you can’t always judge a book by its cover. If you can’t say something nice, maybe you should hold your tongue! If you are feeling impatient and are in a rush, you don’t need to push through the crowd or honk your horn. If someone does something that bothers you, you can speak up, but do it in a loving way! People are fragile. Let’s treat each other with care and with kindness!