06/11/2013 02:23 pm ET Updated May 21, 2014

Kindness Is a Choice

Growing up, my dad would beat me with sandals, hangars, and belts. If he wanted to beat me, he would beat me. I would sometimes run and hide in the bathroom and lock the door hoping I'd be safe. But my dad (knowing I was afraid the dark) would cut the power and wait for me to come out.

I didn't have a choice in whether or not I was beaten as a kid.

Entering my first (and thus far, only) relationship, if my then-boyfriend wanted to be mean to me, he would be mean to me. It didn't matter that I lost the weight he asked me to lose, fixed the acne he asked me to fix, stopped shaking my leg because he told me to stop fidgeting, gave him the last word because he got annoyed if I had the last word, dumbed myself down because he felt I was "talking like a professor," believed him when he said complaining about him hitting me was being immature, and accepted the fact that (of all his previous relationships and hookups) I was the only boyfriend he had with the unique honor of being too unattractive for him to even kiss.

My unconditional love, loyalty, and patience could not change this.

In being forced to come out as gay, I didn't have a choice in whether or not my family would accept me. It didn't matter that I got the good grades my family told me to get growing up. It didn't matter that I obeyed my family when they told me never to drink or do drugs. It didn't matter that I devote my life to the service of others.

Despite trying to be a good person, I couldn't make them accept me.

In struggling to sustain the online social media-based charity work I do, I've learned that just because you've found your passion doesn't mean the world will find a way to make it a sustainable job. It doesn't matter how many people like what you do, it doesn't matter how many people your work helps, it doesn't even matter how many awards you get.

There is no guarantee in this life you'll get paid to pursue your passions.

What my life has taught me is that there are things that hiding, being loving, being loyal, being patient, and being good cannot change. We cannot choose how others treat us. We can only choose how we treat others. And if others treat us in ways that hurts us, abuse us, abandon us, make us feel lonely or worthless, we can choose to echo that onto others or do something better.

And, so, I choose to be kind.

I choose to be kind even if others aren't kind to me. Because how we treat others should be a choice that reflects our character -- not a reaction to other people's character. So, I choose to be kind because my kindness will define me. Not my parents. Not my relationships. Not my sexuality. Not my work. But my kindness. It's the only thing people can't take away from me. And it's the only thing I have in unlimited guaranteed supply.

And, so, the next time someone is kind to you remember this: Kindness is a choice, and they chose to be kind to you.

For more by Shawn Ahmed, click here.

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