Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday Things: Experiments in Grace

We recently checked off number 98, "Do something nice for someone who has not been nice to us (it's a lesson in grace)."

I did my part about five weeks ago, when I was nice to someone who habitually gossips behind my back.  On one particular day, this person went out of his way to make life difficult for me, but I was nothing but kind in return.  I did him the favor he asked me to do, even though I had no reason to comply with his request.  I can't explain the situation beyond that, since I don't want to make this person publicly identifiable.

Alex has done her part for months .  Every week, she has to interact with a specific kid who is bossy and rude (this is not someone she sees socially).  Alex has, without speaking to me about it, decided to acquiesce when it's not a matter of importance, and to stand up for herself when she feels the need.  Alex occasionally holds the door open for this kid.  When she does, part of me is proud and part of me cringes.  The vengeful part of me wants Alex to ignore this child completely.  However, my daughter is doing well with this situation.  She's not being bullied, and she's not creating unnecessary confrontations.

Last week, I spoke harshly to Sage over something that wasn't important.  I was in the wrong; there was no need for me to raise my voice or to make a big deal.  Before I had the chance to apologize, Sage handed me a picture she had drawn the day before.  She told me she wanted me to have it since she could tell I was feeling "bad on the inside."  This is typical of Sage -- she likes to make other people feel good.  She knew she didn't deserve to be scolded, and she knew my anger had little to do with her.  Yet she wanted to fix whatever it was that was really bothering me, and she thought giving me her drawing might help.  She's a sweet kid.  (Of course, I told her I was sorry).

How did these acts of kindness make us feel?

I have to be honest.  I took no pleasure in being kind to someone who is, was, and probably always will be a complete jerk.  My being nice to him did nothing to stop his gossiping or crappy attitude.  Perhaps I'm not that good of a person, but I don't think I'll be going out of my way to be nice to him anymore.  Instead, I'll just interact with him as little as possible.

Alex has little to no feeling over being kind to the kid who's always bossy.  She doesn't take the rudeness personally.  She figures this is one of those things in life you just have to deal with, so she does, in a matter-of-fact sort of way.

Sage was happy to give me the drawing, and I don't think it was because I'm her mother.  She is truly the type of person who wants to make others feel better (that being said, she's no doormat -- if she feels she's being treated unfairly, she says so).

An interesting experiment.  Wish I could say I feel good about it, but the truth is, I don't.  I don't want to be nice to people who aren't nice to me.  My kids are naturally much better at this than I am.

I'd make a really bad waitress.


Marcy said...

I love this idea and think it's a great experience for your children. I struggle with letting go of the times I am annoyed by jerks. It would be more than just selfless in that it would help me because I get more upset about the interactions than they do.

One time I wished a woman well as she was leaving my workplace. She had majorly wronged me the year before. I wanted to be forgiving. I also had a selfish motive. I thought that by taking the high road, she might apologize for having done what she did. Nope. She said nothing, and I ended up regretting being nice to her. I wish I told her off and cursed her. Not really, though--I would probably be regretting that if I did.

Patricia Ellis Herr, Alexandra Herr, and Sage Herr said...

Thanks, Marcy. It's odd -- I know we're supposed to strive toward being loving, forgiving people and all that, but I truly have zero desire to be nice to habitual buggers.

I thought that by doing this experiment, we'd learn something about taking the high road. That didn't least, not for me. Instead, I regretted being nice and wish I had avoided the idiot completely. Not sure what that says about me as a human being, but there it is.