THE BLOG
10/31/2013 11:18 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Why Aren't We Kinder to One Another?

Perhaps part of the reason I chose a vocation centered on situating myself behind a computer screen is that I've never been very good at confrontation.

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post about my reactive tendencies -- I said that if someone treated me badly, I'd probably bake them brownies.

Life authorship

In that case, I was speaking of my own relationship blind spot. But no matter the situation, whether you are someone I'm involved with or someone I encounter in passing, it's hard for me to get mean right back. Even if you deserve it. Even if you treat me terribly.

I fear the reality is much closer to lying down at the foot of your apartment door with the words "kick me" where my spine used to be.

As a writer, it's my job to sit at said computer and tell a story. I can author a story of the life of a stranger. However, authorship of my own life hasn't always gone so well. The story I've written for myself is one I'm not always so proud of. I constantly see myself as a passive bystander of life twists and turns, devoid of all authority. Authority I've passed along.

Some hurts are hard to forget

When I was 23, I was leaving a bar with some of my girlfriends when a stranger shouted out "Hey blondie, you have a fat ass!" I was humiliated. I nearly crumbled in tears. I lost 70 pounds by the following summer.

At the time, I failed to rise to my own defense. I way too easily turned that anger and pain inward. I remember feeling awful. But I remember feeling mostly hateful toward myself.
People can be terrible to each other. My body insecurities never really went away after that pivotal moment in my life. Years later, I've gained back a lot of weight due to health issues and medications I need to take -- and I still have those related insecurities. Do I tie my self-worth in with my weight? No. But I feel a lot better about myself when I don't also feel badly about that.
Most of us encounter bullying in our younger years -- be it in school or on the playground -- and know it's wrong. We like to say we grow out of it later in life.

Reason and rationalization

Everyone has a reason for what they do. What is a good reason to you may not be a good reason to me, and vice versa, but it's still the reason you are doing it. You may not understand why I wear my heart on my sleeve in the way I do -- even see it as a form of manipulation -- but at the same time, I don't understand why you can be so warm one moment, and so cold the next.

I'm trying -- desperately trying -- to learn to understand before I judge. Who am I to judge? Who is anyone?

Lessons learned

I once read that every person that comes into our life is there to teach us a lesson. If someone you love lies to you, maybe it's to teach you that things are not always as they seem. That we should look deeper and closer. That maybe we should learn to look behind the shiny veneer and deeper into someone's heart.

When someone steals from you, whether it's physical property, or much worse -- your faith and belief in them as individuals who value and respect -- maybe it is to teach us that nothing is forever. Does that mean to cherish everything in the here and now? Or to never fully trust anyone because who knows what will become of them and your relationship tomorrow? I'm trying so hard not to make it the latter.

Regardless, the more people hurt us or leave us or disappoint us, the more we are taught that humanity and all its interrelations are so incredibly fragile. Whatever friendships we have are to be cherished and valued -- even if they may hurt us tomorrow -- because, as Lou Reed once alluded, they love us today.

Treat others well

I still believe in treating others well. No two of us are the same -- I don't care if we like the same television or movies or books or politics -- I care that you have a good heart. When people break your heart, it's a hard lesson. It's hard to accept that you can care for someone who doesn't love you back. The best thing you can do for your own heart is to make yourself learn to forgive, and even if not forget, put those feelings of good will and good wishes back where you need them. In yourself. So you can trust and love again.

The art of forgiveness
Sometimes, forgiving the people who have hurt us is the hardest thing we can do. I'm struggling with it now, and sometimes I feel like I'm almost there. None of us are perfect and all of us are flawed, but if we can learn to accept people for who they are, and not try to change them, isn't that the great gift we can give ourselves? For every ounce of good out there, isn't there one less ounce of evil?

I hope so.