Today I read an article by Rachel Macy Stanford entitled "Am I Invisible? The Pain-Relieving Response to Being Rejected or Excluded". She wrote it in response to the experience she and her young daughter had of being in a new environment with unknown people. No doubt we have all found ourselves, more than once, in the situation Rachel describes. But the wisdom she shares goes beyond the described circumstances.
Everyone is called on to deal with exclusion and rejection of all types, on a daily basis in some way or another. We eventually become desensitized to it so that we can ignore it, or at least not over-react to it. Instead we move on about our business without allowing it to have undue influence in our lives. It is no biggie if we smile at someone who is too preoccupied to notice. However, it is not that, but the unkindness of others which is the context of the article.
I have never entertained the thought of being an unkind person who must be avoided. And I truly do not like that being unkind may be demanded from time to time in order to have needed time and space for dealing with issues that demand undivided attention. It is something I do not want to have to be and do not want to push others into being because of me. But a friendly kind word or gesture without being overly effusive can be welcome to anyone - including at times when a person needs space - without conveying unintended excessive neediness that threatens invasive attachment.
This article demonstrates why, throughout my entire adult life, I have ordinarily chosen to find the courage to be friendly (without being overly effusive) - even at the cost of it being misinterpreted by some. And sometimes it actually does require courage because it could be misinterpreted. However, I have found those who choose to misinterpret are most often those who most need the warmth of a heartfelt kind word. Or they are ill-intended users who want to take advantage of kindness because they equate kindness with ignorance. But that is not addressed in the article nor will I address it, here.
Take away from the article:
1) Use people’s hurtful actions as opportunities for self-growth.
2) Unkind treatment becomes a means to gain awareness and compassion.
3) Don't forget the good you have the power to do.
Finding the silver lining in unkind words and actions is a process of making lemonade out of lemons. This does not excuse or condone repetitive intentionally unkind words and actions of others nor the ill intent behind them. However, particularly at times when we are sensitive, like when we are the new kid on the block, the process of at least minimal self-introspection because of unkind words, can help us to deal with them whether the unkindness is intentional or unintentional.
This article clearly demonstrates why we can not allow repetitive unkindness to create feelings of bitterness, resentment, isolation, and an uncaring attitude which are all, of course, the destructive nature and intent of anyone's repetitive unkindness. Sanford's point is that we do not need to be wounded by a lack of kindness, nor direct the same unkindness back to its owner.
I suggest that we also need to consider that intentional repetitive unkindness is actually an effort to destroy something about us the unkind person imagines we represent which is perceived as threatening - perhaps to a cherished personally held belief. Although it is beyond the scope of the article, I feel compelled to mention that repetitive unkindness also instructs us about who to avoid interacting with when it becomes clear that anyone is repeatedly directing unkind words our way. We do not need to be repeatedly distracted from what we must accomplish in life by anyone endlessly demanding of us that we make lemonade out of their unkind words.
So, I echo the advice in the article that regardless of how anyone treats you, "do not forget the good you have the power to do." A kind word when most needed is like a love-bomb creating endless ripples throughout space and time with its universal positive effects - truly.